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Actor Files Defamation Suit Based on Twitter Posting

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Twitter watercolor by mfinleydesigns on Flickr

Image by mfinleydesigns on Flickr

When Twitter user “bwayanonymous” tweeted “Which Avenue Q cast member gave Marty Thomas crabs?,” Broadway actor Marty Thomas didn’t think it was very tweet-tastic.

In fact, he found it defamatory and subsequently filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court claiming the tweet was not only “malicious and false” but also seen by colleagues in the Broadway community, thereby negatively impacting his reputation.

Indeed Thomas claims that he found out about the tweet from an actress he had worked with and a casting director who had hired him. Thomas’ complaint insists he doesn’t have and never has had a sexually transmitted disease. But for Thomas to bring a legal action against the tweeter, he must first find out who “bwayanonymous” is, and that is what he is requesting from the court at this point.

The Twitter account “bwayanonymous,” by the way, no longer exists.

This suit recalls a LegalZoom article published about a year ago, Bloggers Busted By Courts. It used to be that courts summarily rejected requests for the unmasking of anonymous online users, but that changed with two cases that allowed some room for plaintiffs to discover such identities.

It is notable that one of the cases discussed in the article involved the same court as in this case — the New York Supreme Court. In the Liksula Cohen matter, the court found that the model had “‘established the merits’ of a defamation action in that the statements on the blog contained assertions of objective fact, in particular suggesting Cohen was sexually promiscuous, that could form the basis of a defamation claim.”

It sounds like the facts of the instant case could be comparable to the Cohen matter. What do you think? Should Twitter have to reveal the identity of “bwayanonymos” so Thomas can proceed with his defamation claim?

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October 18th, 2010 at 9:54 am