Trolling Twitter: Defamation in an Online World
Jessica A. Magaldi, Wade Davis
January 1, 2017
Strategy & General Management
constitutional law, internet law, First Amendment, free speech, social media, defamation, libel, slander, public figure, torts, Twitter
Journal of Critical Incidents
This critical incident stems from an extended exchange of comments over Twitter between film actor James Woods and an anonymous Twitter user under the pseudonym “Abe List.” Both users seemed to revel in the messy, rambunctious, and often impolite milieu of Twitter. In the course of their Twitter war, Abe List tweeted, “cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting.” The comment made use of the popular internet meme of asking whether someone is “high” or “smoking crack” to challenge that person’s position as crazy or outrageous. Woods sued Abe List, characterizing his tweet as defamation and alleging that Abe List had jeopardized Woods’ good name and reputation. Had the 140-character free-for-all that the two engaged in left Abe List vulnerable to a claim of defamation? Could Abe List be liable for tweets that were very much like Woods’ own tweets?