International Conference on Cyberlaw Cybercrime & Cyber Security

International Conference on Cyberlaw Cybercrime & Cyber Security

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Cases

Cases

  1. Chambers v. DPP[1]
  • In this case, A 26-year-old man learned that an airport from which he was due to travel was closed due to heavy snow-fall. He responded on Twitter by tweeting: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” Five days later, the duty manager of the airport read the tweet and communicated it to the police.
  • It was held that A post on “Twitter” constitutes “a message” sent by a public electronic communications network under s127(a) of the Communications Act 2003, despite the fact that Twitter is privately-owned and the message was termed “content” on the website. Yet, the actus reus of the offence was unfulfilled as, on an objective assessment, the “tweet” was not of a menacing character nor could an inference be drawn that it represented a menace in the context and means by which it was sent. The Court considered the language to be unserious and that reasonable members of the public chose to dismiss it as not threatening. The Court also held that the defendant lacked the requisite mens rea as he “intended the message as a joke, even if a poor joke in bad taste”, thus the intention to send a message of a menacing character is not established.
  1. McAlpine v Bercow[2]
  • 2013, Alan Davies paid in settlement £15,000 after retweeting Sally Bercow’s tweet that suggested Lord McAlpine, a leading Conservative politician from the Thatcher years, had committed child abuse. McAlpine planned to sue at least 10,000 other people who had either retweeted Bercow’s tweet or other Tweets that named McAlpine as the alleged child abuser. He eventually dropped the defamation claims against all retweeters with fewer than 500 followers.
  1. Roslyn La Liberte v. Joy Reid [3]
  • MSNBC host Joy Reid, staunch critic of President Trump and his immigration policies, retweeted to her 1.2 million followers a viral post shared by activist Alan Vargas. In Vargas’s original tweet appeared a photo of a woman in a “Make America Great Again” hat yelling at a student during a city council meeting in California. The tweet insinuated that the woman in the photo, Roslyn La Liberte, called the student a derogatory name for those of Mexican descent while hurling out threats of deportation. Shortly thereafter, Joy Reid found out La Liberte had not actually said those words, and she again posted to her 1.2 million followers, only this time with an apology. La Liberte then sued Joy Reid for defamation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, seeking $75,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages.
  • However, La Liberte announced that she would be amending her complaint to remove the claim relating to the retweet, and limiting her lawsuit to Reid’s Instagram and Facebook posts where Reid falsely accused La Liberte of shouting racial slurs at the boy. While Reid has dropped the defamation by retweet claim, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) was enacted by Congress in 1996 to prevent the threat that tort-based lawsuits might present to freedom of speech in the (then) new and burgeoning Internet medium. It immunized online platforms and internet service providers from liability for the content posted by users of such platforms or websites. [4]
  1. Monir v Wood [5]
  • In this case, Mr Justice Nicklin held that a former chairman of UKIP’s Bristol branch was liable for a defamatory message posted on its Twitter account because the author of the tweet was acting as his agent.
  • Steve Wood had delegated the operation of the Twitter account to then vice-chairman John Langley, and it was no answer for him to say that Mr Langley had breached instructions he was given not to publish racist, xenophobic or defamatory material, said Mr Justice Nicklin.
  • In addition, Mr Wood had not immediately deleted the offending message, which meant he was liable for its continuing publication for the period after he became aware of it and until he himself deleted it after being contacted by police.
  1. Boulger v. Woods [6]
  • In this case, the suit comes as a result of an exchange on Twitter during the 2016 election. In 2016 James Woods reposted a tweet that had side-by-side comparisons of Portia Boulger, the plaintiff and a member of Women for Bernie, and the so-called Trump Nazi, a woman giving a Nazi salute at a rally for Donald Trump. Woods’ post contained a caption that read “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #berniesanders agitator/operative?” The woman giving the salute was shortly after identified as Birgitt Peterson, a Trump supporter living in Yorkville, Illinois.
  • Boulger filed this suit against Woods claiming the actor committed defamation and invasion of privacy against her. Woods filed motion to dismiss for lack of service and motion to dismiss on the pleadings.
  • The court found service lacking but found that Woods conduct had waived personal jurisdiction as a defense due to his conduct in filing the motion on the pleadings. Nonetheless, the court granted the motion to dismiss on the pleadings under the Ohio “innocent construction rule” which says that if a statement is subject to more than one meaning and at least one of the meanings is innocent, the statement should be construed to be innocent.

6.[7] The government had accused the defendant, William Lawrence Cassidy, of harassing and causing “substantial emotional distress” to a Buddhist religious leader named Alyce Zeoli. He had posted thousands of messages about her, some predicting her violent death.

A federal judge dismissed a criminal case against a man accused of stalking a religious leader on Twitter, saying that the Constitution protects “uncomfortable” speech on such bulletin-boardlike sites. A judgement potentially far-reaching consequences for freedom of expression on the Internet.

[1] ‘Chambers v DPP – 2012’ (Law Teacher, 7 March 2018) <https://www.lawteacher.net/cases/chambers-v-dpp.php>

[2] Edward Klaris and Alexia Bedat, ‘Think Before You Retweet’ (Law Technology Today, 7 December 2018) <https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2018/12/think-before-you-retweet/>

[3] Cara Adams, ‘Twibel Warfare: To Retweet or Not to Retweet Is Still the Question’ (Internet and Social Media Law Blog, 30 November 2018) <https://www.internetandtechnologylaw.com/twibel-warfare-to-retweet-or-not-to-retweet-is-still-the-question/>

[4] Edward Klaris and Alexia Bedat, ‘Think Before You Retweet’ (Law Technology Today, 7 December 2018) <https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2018/12/think-before-you-retweet/>

[5] ‘Case Law: Monir v Wood, UKIP branch chairman liable for defamatory tweet posted by vice-chair – Media Lawyer’ (Inforrm’s Blog, 1 March 2019) <https://inforrm.org/2019/01/03/case-law-monir-v-wood-ukip-branch-chairman-liable-for-defamatory-tweet-posted-by-vice-chair-media-lawyer/>

[6] Tim Zubizarreta, ‘Federal appeals court affirms dismissal of defamation suit against actor James Woods’ (Jurist, 28 February 2019) <https://www.jurist.org/news/2019/02/federal-appeals-court-affirms-dismissal-of-defamation-suit-against-actor-james-woods/>

[7] Somini Sengupta, ‘Judge Dismisses Twitter Stalking Case’ (The New York Times, 15 December 2011) <https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/technology/judge-dismisses-case-of-accused-twitter-stalker.html>