It surprised few that the ever volatile and forthright Courtney Love, once famous for her music rather than a disjointed public persona, became the first person sued for Twitter-based defamation when she insulted designer Dawn Simorangkir under her @CourtneyLover79 handle in 2010. She paid $430,000 in a settlement, but a couple of years and Twitter accounts later, she remains in a bind because of statements made back then, due in court again next month over a negative characterization of her former attorney.
The legal action was brought by California law firm Gordon & Holmes, and specifically Rhonda Holmes, who represented Love from 2008 to 2009. Cited in the suit are tweets from June 2010 that include criticisms regarding a suit Love and Holmes had prepared in the matter of the “mismanaged” estate of Love’s late husband, Kurt Cobain: “I was fucking devestated [sic] when Rhonda J Holmes esq of San Diego was bought off. I’ve been hiring and firing lawyers to help me with this.”
Love’s current lawyer, Pryor Cashman’s Michael Niborski, attempted to argue that since the the firm of Gordon & Holmes was never mentioned—and because Twitter is a more of hyperbole factory more than a news organization—such remarks could not be considered defamatory statements of fact. Judge Michael Johnson of the Los Angeles Superior Court disagreed, noting that “Ms. Love has a big following and they all hang on everything she does and says and Tweets.”
Implicit in his dismissal of Love’s defense was the view that famous people must be held to a stricter standard of conduct when it comes to social media, but as Justine Sacco recently proved, all it takes is a couple hundred followers and one stomach-turning joke to torpedo a career and upend a life. Like Sacco, Love appears to have conciliation on her mind of late: her Twitter feed makes no mention of the case but yesterday linked to a story about Gweneth Paltrow and Graydon Carter squashing their feud over a planned Vanity Fair story, and voiced her approval, writing “this is KLASSY.”
It’ll be a strange day indeed when someone says the same of her.