An Australian man is suing Twitter for defamation after TV presenter branded him a bully.
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This comes after ABC presenter, Marieke Hardy (pictured), sought to “name and shame” Joshua Meggitt on her Twitter account to her 60,000+ followers, as the author of an online hate blog directed at her.
However, as it turns out the accusation was false and Meggitt, who already settled a legal action with Hardy for an estimated $15,000, has now turned to chatter site Twitter, suing the social network for defamation for the tweet and retweets published online.
“I name and shame my ‘anonymous’ internet bully. Liberating business! Join me,” tweeted TV presenter and blogger Hardy in November last, believing Meggitt, a Melbourne native, to be the source of the hatred blog.
The case is the first of its kind to be heard under Australian law and may now open up a bag of cats on how courts here treat Twitter and other online social media ‘publications’ in light of a 2002 ruling here.
“Twitter are a publisher, and at law anyone involved in the publication can be sued,” says Meggitt lawyer, Mr Stuart Gibson.
“We’re suing for the retweets and the original tweet – and many of the retweets and comments are far worse.”
The Twitter V Meggitt case now raises some “interesting legal questions with respect to the liability of online intermediaries” like Twitter, Facebook and Co, writes Peter Black, Senior Lecturer from Queensland University of Technology, in The Conversation.
Why? Because it is one of the first times a platform itself i.e. Twitter has been sued rather than the author of the potentially libellous material and could, if successful, open up the flood gates for Facebook and other online networks to be sued on similar claims.
“Under Australian law, it is possible that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook could be held liable for posts made by their users. If that is indeed the result in this case, Australian defamation law will need urgent reform,” says Black.
This follows a precedent set here following a similar case in 2002 between Australian businessman Joseph Gutnick who sued the US publication Dow Jones for defamation.
The seven High Court Judges in that case decided Gutnick had the right to sue for defamation at his primary residence (Victoria) and the place he was best known, even though the publication source was located elsewhere.
Even though Twitter is based in the US, it can still potentially be held liable in Australia, according to Black.
It will also be interesting to see whether Twitter’s terms and conditions will grant it immunity from being sued, he says.
This issue emerged last year in the Ryan Giggs superinjunction scandal, who paid millions to have his private life kept under wraps, sued Twitter and at least one user after being ousted on the site as the celebrity identity who taken out the injunction.