In a case of first impression, Courtney Love tested constitutional theories of freedom of speech last month in an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the first Twitter-libel lawsuit. According to Matthew Heller with OnPointNews, “Love argues that Twitter is a public forum and she spoke on a matter of public interest by warning ‘other consumers about her nightmare experience with Simorangkir and Simorangkir’s pattern of criminal and bad faith conduct.” She says she hired Boudoir Queen to make custom pieces of clothing from raw materials she gave her but the designer held the clothing ‘hostage’ after she refused to pay an inflated invoice.” Additionally the motion to dismiss goes on to state, “every single one of the allegedly defamatory statements made by Love for which Plaintiff has brought suit constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole,’ ‘vigorous epithet[s],’ ‘lusty and imaginative expression[s] of… contempt,’ and language used ‘in a loose, figurative sense’ that has been accorded free speech protection as a statement of opinion rather than an actionable statement of fact.” Furthering the argument, “Love goes on to say that ‘To the extent that the statements do contain provably false facts that are reasonably understood as regarding Plaintiff, they are true and accurate as far as Love understood them.’
So what are SLAPPs and Anti-SLAPP motions? In referencing the California Anti-SLAPP project, “SLAPPs — Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — are civil complaints or counterclaims (against either an individual or an organization) in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Typically, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as defamation, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.”
Intrigued? Check out Oxford Scholarship Online: Defamation and Freedom of Speech by Milo, Dario, Partner, Media Law Department, Webber Wentzel Bowens Attorneys, part-time lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
What do you think about Love’s constitutional arguments that Twitter is a public forum and her statements were of public interest? Will she prevail?