Now that we too are tweeting it is time we blog about Twitter. As some of you may know, the Pew Internet Project report recently found that 19 percent of all US Internet users are using Twitter or similar services to share social updates, a number which is an 8 percent increase from last year. Not surprisingly the increase is mainly attributed to three groups: (1) young Internet users 18-44, (2) mobile users and (3) those who already utilize social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace. The survey results were based on 2,253 phone responses from U.S. consumers 18 and older between Aug. 18 and Sept. 14. The 18-44 demographic can be broken down further. Specifically, usage nearly doubled from 19 percent in December 2008 to 37 percent in the 18 to 24 age group. Those 25-35 were not far behind they were up 20 points to 31 percent. While users 35-44s went up 10 points to 19 percent.
Surveys aside, we have seen an increase in client questions about social media, specifically, about liability for defamation, privacy torts, trade secret disclosures and Intellectual Property Infringement as a result of employee “posts” on corporate blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Just like all publications, posts on these sites may trigger liability by including a third party’s intellectual property, such as copyrighted material and/or trademarks. For example, in Anthony La Russa v. Twitter, Inc., et al., a case before the Superior Court of San Francisco, LaRussa, the manager of the Saint Louis Cardinals, alleged that the twitter.com/TonyLaRussa site contained unauthorized photographs of him and statements falsely attributed to LaRussa which constituted trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, cybersquatting, misappropriation of name, misappropriation of likeness, invasion of privacy, and intentional misrepresentation. Twitter had the case removed to the United States District Court of California and denied that the parties were in settlement discussions. However, on June 26, 2009, La Russa filed a notice of voluntary dismissal stating that the parties had settled the lawsuit.
But Twitter is not the only defendant these days; in July, Horizon Group Management LLC sued their tenant Amanda Bonnen for defamation after she tweeted about the company. Click here to see the complaint. Bonnen who had 20 followers on Twitter faces $50,000 in potential liability for her one tweet. And so as these social sites becoming more and more popular in the corporate sphere so does the potential for liability. For these and many other reasons we recommend that client’s consider not only who is representing them on these sites but all the consequences before they post.