Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 10:54 UK

Defamation lawsuit for US tweeter

Twitter messages
Twitter allows users to post status updates in 140 charachters or less

A tenant who used the micro-blogging service Twitter to complain about mould in her Chicago apartment is being sued.

Horizon Group Management filed a lawsuit that has accused Amanda Bonnen of defaming the company with her tweet.

She sent out a message that said "Who said sleeping in a mouldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

"The statements are obviously false, and it's our intention to prove that," said Horizon's Jeffrey Michael.

Mr Michael, whose family has run the company for the last quarter of a century, told the Chicago Sun-Times that while Ms Bonnen recently moved out, he never had a conversation about the post and never asked her to take it down.

"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organisation," Mr Michael told the paper.

In a press statement the company later apologised for its "tongue in cheek comments" and stated that "no mould was ever found in her (Ms Bonnen's) unit and was one of several that experienced an overnight leak during roof repairs in late March 2009.

"Ultimately, all tenant grievances were quickly and amicably resolved, except Ms Bonnen's," said the statement.

Horizon has claimed the tweet was "published throughout the world" and has severely damaged its good name.

The company's lawsuit is seeking damages of $50,000 (£30,900) for the tweet that was posted in May.

Ms Bonnen, who had just 20 followers on Twitter at the time, has been unavailable to comment on the lawsuit. Her Twitter account has now been deleted.

"Free speech"

The blogosphere has been very vocal about the lawsuit.

Marian Wang of asked "What IS a tweet anyway? Is it really considered publishing? Is it a conversation between friends in a public forum, like the electronic version of a coffee shop, where you can gripe privately but have your gripes overheard?"

Twitter website screen shot
The issue of the lawsuit was a major topic of discussion among users

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog wondered if what Ms Bonnen tweeted was "the shortest allegedly defamatory statement in history?"

"There should be a television game show, we think, in which contestants vie to see who can defame someone, an audience member in fewer words. ("I can defame that man in seven words Alex!")" wrote the Journal's Ashby Jones.

Other bloggers commented that by initiating a lawsuit, Horizon has given the issue the oxygen of publicity.

"If the public didn't read Amanda Bonnen's Twitter feed before, they will now, thanks to a defamation lawsuit brought against her by Horizon Group Management in Chicago," said Meg Marco of the

The social media blog Mashable agreed.

"We're pretty sure Horizon Realty lost a lot more than $50,000 from this Twitter backlash," said associate editor Ben Parr.

On Twitter the comments have ranged from "Oh shizzles!! Amanda Bonnen's page got deleted!! And I was going to follow her" to "I wanna FOLLOW Amanda Bonnen" and from "Twitter is free speech and that should be protected" to "We should donate a dollar to Amanda Bonnen for each tweet on this."

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