What do you do when someone makes a fake social networking page about you, posting what you believe to be defamatory statements to your character? Why, you sue Twitter of course!
At least that's what Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals is doing. LaRussa, who operates ARF - Animal Rescue Foundation - believes that the comments posted by the anonymous account holder are so defamatory they've negatively impacted his name and branding - something he considers his trademark. In turn, he has filed suit against Twitter claiming they denied him the opportunity to have the account pulled from the site and reclaim his good name. According to the tort complaint filed in Superior Court of California, Mr. La Russa is suing for general damages for injury to his trademark (his name), damages for emotional distress and mental anguish, order barring Twitter from the use of his mark and takedown of the account, attorney's fees and costs, and exemplary damages.
Maybe Mr. La Russa should sue himself. In November 2007, La Russa plead guilty to a DUI charge, blowing a .093 blood-alcohol content in a traffic stop in March of that year. He stated, “I accept full responsibility for my conduct,” pleading guilty through his lawyer as he did not appear in court. According to further reports, La Russa decided on the guilty plea considering it was in everyone's best interest. Obviously he thought this was embarrassing enough to himself, but he didn't think it was detrimental to his trademark or his Foundation at that time.
On June 6, one day to the month after the initial tort filing, Twitter released a statement via The Official Twitter Blog stating, “Mr. La Russa's lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous. Twitter's Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr. La Russa's lawsuit.” The author of the post and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, goes on to state that Twitter has not settled out of court with similar issues in the past nor do they have any future plans to settle with current or future cases.
Having read over the Twitter Terms of Service and the court filing by Mr. La Russa's attorney, I can only conclude the same. This lawsuit has all the markings of someone who is disgruntled with the actions of one individual and is taking his wrath out on the community at-large. That is exactly who he will be hurting in the long-run – Twitter's loyal community of users. It is important to note, however, that one good thing to come out of this situation is the Verified Accounts Beta.
In the same blog article, Stone goes on to say that since they take the user experience seriously, they are implementing a feature called Verified Accounts Beta. Coming this summer, the experiment will begin with public officials and government agencies, known people and celebrities and other “individuals at risk of impersonation.” The feature is designed to authenticate the identity of these persons so the reliability of the information obtained from their accounts exists. Initially, verification will not be available to businesses, but Twitter does recognize the opportunity for such an addition.
Stone was also careful to note that users shouldn't discount information read on user accounts displaying a verification seal. “The vast majority of Twitter accounts are not impersonators.”