Courtney Love is being sued for her tweets. *File photo
Courtney Love is being sued for her tweets. *File photo
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Bermuda’s Facebook users appear to agree that many people are quick to post comments without thinking of the consequences. 

They urged people to “think twice” and “be careful” in light of the risk of ending up in court.

We spoke to users not about Charles Richardon’s case specifically but about the general use of social media and the potential risks.

UBP Senator Michael Dunkley said: “People definitely need to think twice about what they write online as just about anyone can access it.

“As technology has changed people have forgotten about the implications of what they write on websites such as Facebook, Twitter and My Space.

“You are not having a private conversation, you have to be careful especially as a public official, it’s important to act accordingly at all times.”

Status updates

Mr. Dunkley said he often used his Facebook status updates to discuss topical issues but would only name a person if “it was already public information.”

For example last week, after a story had been published in The Royal Gazette, Mr. Dunkley’s status update was: ‘Minister (Kim) Wilson thinks that Ministers are exempt from parking tickets. Why? All MP’s have a parking spot on the grounds of the House of Assembly so there is no need to use much needed parking on the streets of Hamilton. So what is wrong with using the House spot?’

His post received 22 comments and Minister Wilson went on to end the controversy by paying her $50 parking ticket.

UBP electoral candidate Jeff Sousa described Facebook as an “awesome social network” that allowed him to keep in contact with family and friends across the world. He also uses it as a marketing tool for his companies.

He said he always thought about what he wrote before posting anything as “once you push the share button it is too late”.

Mr. Sousa said: “People have been way too casual with their comments and personal attacks on people. People say silly things. Once said on Facebook, it is in the public domain.”

Mr. Sousa, who has been on Facebook since 2007, said: “It saddens me to see the posts that many of our young people are posting on Facebook.

Posting at work

“People are posting on Facebook while working and the posts are like ‘I can’t stand my job,’ ‘Hurry up 5pm’ and many even worse.”

A Bermudian mother, who did not want to be named, gets the island talking by updating her status an average of three times a day. She has more than 3,000 ‘friends’ who avidly comment on her updates, which discuss everything from politics to relationship advice.

She said: “I always make sure that I do not personally attack anyone. I never mention a person’s name.

“That’s my one rule, I talk about issues rather than people. I also monitor my comments to check they are not disrespecting someone else.

“People do need to be careful with what they post because in this day and age things can be used against you.

“People express themselves so much but just don’t understand the magnitude of Facebook.”

The Bermudian woman has been on Facebook since December 2006 when “hardly anyone knew about it.”

She added: “For me Facebook is a way to reach out to people, I love the connectivity of it.”

Teacher Shawnette Somner said she always thought about her family, business and the young people who looked up to her before updating Facebook.

She said: “I don’t think people realise the magnitude of Facebook — some people lack good moral judgement on a regular basis.

“One of my pet peeves is the people who want to be ‘first to post’… they post rest in peace notices and name dead people before relatives and friends can be properly and officially notified. I’d love to see someone sued for that!

“And I think it’s very distasteful for people to carry out public fights on Facebook. They really show how low and immature they are.”

 

Research by James Whittaker

While criminal cases of defamation are uncommon, the number of civil cases over comments on Facebook or Twitter is on the rise.

Here we recap five of the most high profile cases.

The Tweeting rocker: Courtney Love — The U.S. rockstar and widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is the subject of the US’ first Twitter defamation lawsuit.

Ms Love is being sued by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir over a string of insulting and false tweets which she says damaged her reputation. Lawyers in the case have suggested Love will argue that she was addicted to social media and unable to see that her ‘tweets’ were damaging.

The cricketer and the businessman: Former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns is bringing a case against Indian mogul Lalit Modi — the former owner of the Indian Premier League 20-20 cricket.

Cairns has won approval from the High Court in London to pursue a libel case over comments Modi allegedly made on Twitter accusing him of match fixing.

The Babel-ing footballer: Liverpool winger Ryan Babel landed himself in hot water this week with a tweet about referee Howard Webb. Babel is not facing court action but he has been hauled before the Football Association and charged with improper conduct for posting a photo-shopped image of the ref in a Manchester United shirt criticising his controversial decision to award a penalty to United in an FA Cup clash between the two teams on Sunday.

Babel wrote: "And they call him one of the best referees. That's a joke." Babel could be fined or banned from matches by the FA as a result of the disciplinary action.

Firsht of a kind: In what is believed to be the first Facebook libel case North London businessman Matthew Firsht was awarded £22,000 in damages for breach of privacy and libel against a former friend, Grant Raphael, who set up a fake Facebook profile in his name.

A Facebook group set up by Mr Raphael called “Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?...” accused Mr Firsht and his company of having lied to avoid paying its debts.

Trespassing cameras: Okay, not exactly a social media case, but Aaron and Christine Boring’s suit against Google Street View is one of a kind.

The Pennsylvania couple attempted to sue the internet company for invasion of privacy complaining its satellite pictures of their home, which is on a private road, decrease the property value.

They lost the case but Google was ultimately ordered to pay $1 (one dollar) compensation for trespassing

When Facebook friendships turn sour: British chef Jeremiah Barber was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages in July last year to a former friend he falsely accused of being a paedophile on Facebook.

Jeremiah Barber posted an indecent image of children on Raymond Bryce’s page on the social networking website along with the comment: ‘Ray, you like kids and you are gay so I bet you love this picture, Ha ha’.

SPECIAL REPORT: Social media on trial?