Amanda Bonnen and The $50K Tweet

By Neetal Parekh on July 28, 2009 | Last updated on October 28, 2019

A Chicago woman is being sued for defamation by a realty company that claims her tweet detrimentally affected the company's reputation.  Horizon Group Management is all atwitter from Amanda Bonnen's 140 character or less entry that included, "Who said sleeping a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

The case was filed in Cook County court specifically claiming that the tweeter "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the tweet to be distributed throughout the world."  The realty company owns over 1500 apartments.  Bonnen, with the now-retired twitter alias 'bonnen' had a total of 20 followers.  The tweet in question was an @ tweet, directed to a specific user, broadcast on Amanda Bonnen's profile.  And those are the facts.

The intriguing legal query is whether these facts amount to evidence of defamation.  In the digital age of instantaneous messaging, communication, and online sharing, how will tort claims of defamation hold up in court? Eyes are on Cook County to see how it handles this case.

Defamation refers to any statement that harms a person or entity's reputation---slander is verbal defamation while libel is defamation-a-la written words. 

A plaintiff claiming defamation must prove four basic elements to be successful in a defamation case:

  1. the statement was published to a third party
  2. the statement was false
  3. the statement was damaging; and
  4. the statement was unprivileged

Horizon Realty must really be trying to make a point, because even though millions of people didn't see the offending tweet, thanks to the lawsuit they now know about the dig against the company.


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