Who"s davidlian?

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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Was that your "publishing" voice or "conversation" voice?

Perhaps plugging nicely to the post just below, Mashable posted a story about a woman getting sued for $50,000 for a tweet. The Twitterer was Abonnen and she had 22 followers.

The offense? She was tweeting to a friend:

"@JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay."

Sounds like a tweet you could have written? Yeah, me too. Apparently, though, Horizon Realty thinks this was tantamount to defamation. Is it? That depends on the context of the word "moldy" and what Abonnen meant by saying "Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

It's like me telling my colleague: "You sure you want my moldy old sandwich in the fridge?" when factually, there really isn't any mold on the sandwich and "old" refers to the sandwich having been in existence for the past 5 hours.

What I'm alluding to is the tone and manner by which we converse on Twitter. Do we think of what we write in a "publishing" voice (the same way we might in a blog or an article) or do we write in a "conversational" voice, like how we'd talk to a friend and insert contextual quips.

You don't talk to your friends the same way you would write a press release. And often, sarcasm and exaggeration comes into play too. Twitter, being the social network it is, means people are often talking in their "conversation" voice. We're talking to like-minded people who understand the things we say and the way we speak.

Should we now carefully vet every 140 characters we post to ensure in no way can it be taken out of context and be construed as libelous? I wonder how this suit will change the face of tweeting.

Should we be afraid, very afraid, of #streamyxsucks?


Ben Israel said...

I think one should be careful with what we say on any platform. Defamation is not only libel (written) it is also slander (spoken). So either way, what is said (or written) on Twitter can be used in court. Whether it is substantial enough to hold in court is dependent on the facts - another story by itself.

What I'd be interested to find out is whether the weight of defamation is dependent on the influence. If I had 800 followers, would I be facing a much larger sum.

But yes, I do think the fast paced nature Twitter has caused us to drop our ball a little. For local examples, see Rick Astley and Yasmin Ahmad premature death claims.

With great power comes great responsibility. Social media and freedom of speech, IS a great power.

davidlian said...

@Ben_Israel: No question about whether it can be libel or slander. However, I'm wondering if the context of the conversation was taken into consideration. Like you said, we'll see in court.

If $50,000 for 20 followers is the going rate, it'd be $4 million for 800 followers.

KY said...

i read that on slashdot, and frankly speaking the bigger problem is the cost to proof your innocence in US judiciary system. The same type of thing shouldn't really happen here, at least I hope

davidlian said...

@KY: Exactly! That's the RIAA's scare tactic - go around slapping people with lawsuits that they can't afford to defend. You've struck on an interesting point - if a tweet is enough evidence for a suit, then will big companies be able to keep complaints quiet simply by out-muscling them?

I think the answer is no...because we would just be up in arms around it. I expect this suit will be the last of its kind.

Andy Goh said...

And here I just called Australia 3 F-tards, on Twitter.

Hillary said...

Similar story, last weekend there was a conference for female bloggers #BlogHer09 and Nikon held an event for a few invited female bloggers.

The venue is a bar, two mums brought along their babies, PR agency person had to tell them it's not an appropriate place for their children.

Next thing you know, one of them whipped out her mobile and twittered #Nikonhatesbabies #BlogHer09. Other mothers who read it started feeling angry... you can not imagine the horrifying ends of the conversation.

I thought that was completely irresponsible of the tweeter. Even if it had been her conversation voice, that twitter was seen by hundreds if not thousands of people, many whom she had never met before.