If anyone was in any doubt that it makes sense to record Twitter streams from your company, organisation or senior staff, then the word Twibel should act as a wake-up call.
Twibel is the latest buzzword for litigation involving defamation on Twitter. The fact that a word has been coined is enough to suggest its a fast-growing phenomenon that deserves to be taken seriously. Several high profile cases have emerged over the past few years, including a case that involved Courtney Love and a former attorney, a case involving a teacher in Australia and a former student and one where a delivery company in the UK sued Twitter itself for the comments made by some of its customers via the company’s service.
Of course in law, a defamatory statement is a false statement of fact, so much of the ranting and raving carried on via Twitter does not actually constitute defamation. It’s just someone’s opinion, even if that opinion could be considered offensive or upsetting. The case of Stepien v Franklin should remind us of that. But this should not detract from the fact that more cases involving Twitter are ending up in court and Twitter itself is now considered to be just another medium, just like newspaper, television or advertising.
The very fact that Tweets are so easy to make should give rise to concern. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, we all get angry and we all get tired, but Tweets persist in various forms and an inappropriate comment on Twitter can cause significant damage. Most companies will vet Tweets to a certain extent before they go out, but it still makes sense to record Twitter streams and from more than just a legal and compliance perspective. Many organisations are using Twitter for customer service, sales promotions and marketing. Without the ability to archive or record Twitter, it’s difficult to analyse what worked and what didn’t. Hindsight is hard to employ when you don’t know what you said and when.
Away from the high profile world of celebrity Twibel, Twitter has become such an important medium for business communication that we expect to see more cases that involve misleading, offensive or inaccurate tweets. Tweets can spread quickly via the re-tweet or links; it’s part of the attraction of Twitter. This works well when you’re trying to promote a product or service or spread the good news, but as the cellphone provider Vodafone found out, bad news travels just as quickly.
The fact is that communication via Twitter should be treated in exactly the same way as every other piece of communication to customers, employees and the broader public: as a business record. Failing to record what has been said is a risk that invites damage to an organisations reputation and finances. If you’re in marketing, customer service or are legal counsel looking to record Twitter streams or archive the tweets of senior members of the organisation, get in contact with us at Hanzo Archives. We’ve been working with a number of organisations to safeguard organisations from a legal and compliance perspective.