Jimmy Kimmel is enjoying a sustained viral moment with his hilarious collections of good-natured celebrities reading venomous tweets about themselves. Justin Beiber’s “Dear God, Give us 2pac back and we’ll give you Justin Beiber” is a benign one–many require a lot of censoring beeps. (And there’s also the rumor that Kimmel’s tweets aren’t real, but crafted by his writing team.) Still the celebrities show good humor–that’s their job–while other people don’t always take nasty tweets so well. Twitter is the Wild West of truncated communications, a lawless outpost of speedy ill-considered sentiment, and you can really piss somebody off there. But can you libel them?
We’re about to find out. In 2010, the otherwise demure Courtney Love managed, just before yoga, to tweet this about her former attorney: “I was f—— devestated [sic] when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was bought off @FairNewsSpears perhaps you can get a quote.” It’s the “bought off” that the attorney didn’t like–them’s fightin’ words. Love claims that if it wasn’t exactly a love note, it was just her opinion, which she’s welcome to–as the saying goes. But what if you offer your opinion to a quarter million people? (That’s how many Twitter followers Love has.) That’s not poolside gossip–that’s about the same daily circulation as the Chicago Sun-Times. Though other suits have been brought, Love will be the first person to defend a tweet in US court. The trial started this week.