Defamation In 140 Characters Or Less

Here’s a piece from the Seattle Daily Weekly that may be slightly over stating things. It’s a report on a libel suit in Oregon that it’s calling a “landmark” case. I guess the Daily Weekly folks think that way because the case involves a libel claim based on a Twitter posting. But I’m not so sure. Apparently a blogger named Tiffany Craig wrote some information about a fellow named Jerrold Darm, who runs a medical spa-treatment center. Craig reported that the Oregon Health Board had revoked Darm’s medical license in 2001. It appears that she included in her blog post a copy of the official ruling from the Board. And she tweeted a link to the blog post. The problem is, while Darm was reprimanded, he never lost his license. And that’s the heart of Darm’s libel suit. The Daily Weekly piece leads off with this provocative question: “Can a person defame another person in 140 characters or less?” But I’m not sure that’s really the right question. First, this case really isn’t limited to the tweet. It’s more about the blog post, which Craig linked to on the tweet. Second, the answer to the question is very simply, yes. Take this tweet for example: jack greiner’s law license was revoked in 2006. That’s way less than 140 characters. But it’s also false (really, it’s false), it’s presented as a verifiable fact and it would cause harm to my reputation. That’s all it takes to set up a libel claim. So, I’m not sure what makes this case a landmark. Short and sweet is not a defense to libel.