Twitter Defamation Case: Mara Feld v. Crystal Conway

Photo of horse statute to accompany article about equine Twitter defamation case studyA much publicized Twitter defamation lawsuit has come to an unceremonious end. An equine scandal gone legal, Feld v. Conway clarified the Federal Massachusetts District Court stance on R-rated social media outbursts.

Feld v. Conway Origins: The Genesis of a Twitter Defamation Lawsuit

Our tale begins back in 2010. WikiLeaks was in full swing, royals were getting engaged, and the horse world was buzzing about an equine scandal.

Gossip at the stable was that thoroughbred owner Mara Feld had accidentally sent her gelding to a horse auction instead of a horse farm. As a result, (so the story goes), the poor animal may have ended up in a Canadian slaughterhouse instead of hoofing away his twilight years as a horsey companion.

As is often the case when mistakes become public, the equine-interested peanut gallery took to the Internet to wax poetic about the faux pas — generously showering the owner with jibes and ridicule. One participant, a Kentuckian named Crystal Conway, added to the conversation by Twitter quipping, “Mara Feld…is f*cking crazy.”

Feld was not impressed with Conway’s assessment and decided to sue for Twitter defamation. The way Feld figured, as a PhD-holding toxicologist whose “prospective employers … [found] … her work by searching the Internet for her name,” Conway’s insult could not stay online for all to encounter. In response to Feld’s suit, Conway argued hyperbole – a protected First Amendment form of speech.

But this Twitter defamation case never made it to trial.

Judge Says Twitter Cursing ≠ Twitter Defamation

After reviewing Feld’s filing and Conway’s motion to dismiss, Judge Dennis Saylor IV sided with the latter. Ultimately, he deduced that Feld failed to state an action “upon which relief could be granted.” In other words, since Feld didn’t actually include a false statement of fact on which a defamation action could hang, there was nothing for the court to consider. Additionally, according to MA defamation law, Saylor had to consider the entire context of the statement under review. In the end, Saylor said that Conway’s tweet was akin to an “imaginative expression” and “rhetorical hyperbole” which are both protected forms of speech.
In his own words, Judge Saylor explained:

“Dismissal is appropriate if plaintiff’s well-pleaded facts do not possess enough heft…”

and

The phrase “Mara Feld . . . is fucking crazy,” when viewed in that context, cannot reasonably be understood to state actual facts about plaintiff’s mental state. It was obviously intended as criticism—that is, as opinion—not as a statement of fact.

Contact A Twitter Defamation Attorney

Are you dealing with an online reputation situation? Has someone bad-mouthed you or your business on social media? If yes, and you’re curious about available legal options, get in touch with Kelly / Warner. We’ve successfully handled many social media defamation cases. In most instances, we’re able to help clients fix the problem quickly and quietly so life and business can get back to normal.

Lawsuits aren’t your only legal option when it comes to Twitter defamation. Get in touch to learn more.

Twitter Defamation: Turkish Officials v. Twittering Turks

Twitter defamation in Turkey
Turkish officials engaged in a Twitter defamation standoff before the country’s elections last weekend.
  • Turkish politicians shut down Twitter after leaked recordings surfaced.
  • The social media clampdown came right before Turkish elections.
  • Are Twitter quips considered defamatory in the United States?

Turkish Officials’s Twitter Defamation Takedown Campaign

Weeks before Turkish citizens cast their ballots, country officials were nursing a major online concern: social media websites.

In the days leading up to the election, a “gotcha” government bribery tape leaked via Twitter. Politicians lobbed accusations of villainy across party lines – and word on the sokak was that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was the wheeling-dealing politician caught on tape.

A consummate – if not predictable — statesman, Erdogan has maintained his innocence. Basically, he’s pinning the incident on a Pro Tools aficionado with opposition sympathies.

Turkey Doesn’t Have The Best Free Speech Track Record

A free speech vanguard, Turkey is not. In fact, the country has laws outlawing government criticism. So, it came as no surprise when Turkish lawmakers ordered Twitter to remove any and all offending accounts. Turkey’s communications minister put it bluntly, explaining, “Whether it’s Twitter, Yahoo or Google, all social media companies have to obey the laws of the Turkish Republic and they will.”

Twitter: “Defamation? We Don’t Think So.”

The quip-loving company, however, didn’t immediately kowtow to Turkey’s demands. Twitter was all (and, of course we’re paraphrasing here), Slow your roll, Turkey. Our definitions of Twitter defamation are not one in the same.

Turkey: Shut ‘Em Down!

Undeterred by Twitter’s hesitance, the Turkish government blocked the site entirely.  By election time, officials had also blocked Google and YouTube, thanks to another leaked tape.

Alleged Twitter Defamation Did Not Deter Election Outcome…Or Did It?

In the end, Erdogan won the election, and we’ll never know if his party’s victory was aided by the social media shutdown. But one thing seems certain, Turkish politicians intend to keep tight control of social media platforms in an effort to curb Internet defamation.

What Are The Twitter Defamation Rules Under U.S. Law?

Is Twitter snark considered defamatory in the United States? Yes and no. Yes, under United States law, defamation is defamation – no matter if it appears in a well-respected print outlet or a shady website. However, in the past, some plaintiffs have argued that social media platforms are akin to parody and satirical magazines, and won.

Social Media Law Attorneys

Kelly / Warner is a boutique legal practice with considerable experience in international internet law and social media defamation. If you are entangled in a cross-border social media defamation spat, get in touch to learn more about your options.

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Twitter Defamation Shocker: Courtney Love For The Win!

Wikipedia photo of Courtney Love to accompany post about her Twitter defamation lawsuits
Image Source: Wikipedia; User: ultra 5280 Flickr

Well, lookie here…Courtney Love won her latest Twitter defamation lawsuit.

Courtney Love’s Social Media Litigation Woes: A History

Back in 2012, notorious trash-tweeter Courtney Love and the “Boudoir Queen,” designer Dawn Simorangkir, were locked in a Twitter libel lawsuit over one of Love’s infamous social media meltdowns.

But before the case made it to trial, they reached a settlement. Love agreed to pay Simorangkir $430,000 and Twitter banned the Hole front-woman for two months.
But the saga didn’t end there.

In classic Courtney Love style, the defamation spat between Love and Simorangkir didn’t end with the 2012 settlement. Last May, while on the Howard Stern Show, Love talked about the Twitter defamation case and claimed to have security camera evidence of the designer stealing. Love also called Simorangkir “a whore.” Howard Stern, the King of Shock Jocks, was even taken aback by her claims. He warned, “You can’t just blurt things out.” Well, Dawn must have been listening, because Simorangkir filed yet another social medial libel suit against Love in September 2013. The issue has yet to be resolved a second time.

Love’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Tweets Result In Twitter Defamation Case

One night, Courtney Love tweeted, “I was f–ing devastated when Rhonda J. Holmes, Esq. of San Diego was bought off.” Why pillory a random lawyer online? Well, you see, Holmes, (at the time), was Courtney’s attorney. And, as you may have already guessed, Courtney and Rhonda’s relationship was suffering through a bit of a professional rough patch.

Love swears the tweet was never meant to be public. She insists she was merely expressing private disappointment in what she believed was her former lawyer’s betrayal. In her signature self-revelatory bluntness, Love also blamed the problematic tweets on a “lack of sobriety.”
Unimpressed with Courtney’s Twitter quips, Holmes filed a Twitter defamation lawsuit against Love, claiming the 140-character rant harmed her professional reputation.

During the trial, Love’s attorney argued:

  1. That the plaintiff didn’t show negligence;
  2. Courtney believed her suspicions about Holmes to be true;
  3. Because of points 1 and 2, Love’s Twitter statements shouldn’t be deemed defamatory.

Twitter Defamation Upset: Twibel Jury Sides With Love

Legal watchers were certain Love would lose this one. But in the end, she emerged victorious. Why? Because the jury unanimously agreed that the answer to the following question had to be “no”:

“Did Rhonda Holmes prove by clear and convincing evidence that Courtney Love knew [her tweets were] false or doubted the truth of it?”

You see, for a statement to be defamatory, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted either negligently or with actual malice. In other words, a statement cannot be defamatory if the would-be defamers believe in the truthiness of their statements. In this instance, the jury believed that Courtney truly thought Holmes was secretly working with a cabal of anti-Courtney estate executives. After all, the Hole singer had been ranting against enemies – imagined or not – for years. (In this particular case, whether or not anti-Courtney Love quislings actually exist doesn’t matter; the fact that Courtney genuinely thinks it exists is the relevant issue.)

After deliberating for several hours, the jury returned with a verdict. While the jurors didn’t believe Love’s statements about Holmes, they did believe Courtney thought she was tweeting the conspiracy gospel. As a result, the gang of 12 ruled in favor of Team Love.

Like the “twinkie defense” before it, perhaps this brilliant bit of defensive arguing also deserves a moniker – let’s go with: “tweet-tin-foil defense.”

Get In Touch With A Twitter Defamation Lawyer

With Twitter’s 140-character limit, the platform is fertile defamatory grounds. If you need to speak with a Twitter defamation lawyer, get in touch today. Kelly Warner has a dedicated social media attorney on staff who can help rectify your situation quickly.

Get in touch today to begin the conversation. The sooner your address the problem, the sooner it can be solved.