By definition, libel is characterized as a published false statement that is damaging to another person’s reputation, also known as a written defamation (Merriam-Webster). More explicitly, this could mean that statements made on Twitter have the power to form the basis of a defamation lawsuit as much as any other publication, such as newspapers, magazines, novels, or films.Within the United States, there are certain elements that constitute a statement being labeled as libelous to prove defamation.
In brief, these four elements include proof that a false and defamatory statement was made, proof that an unprivileged publication to a third party was made, proof that the publisher acted negligently in the publication of the communication, and, lastly, proof of special damages (Findlaw). Based on this outline, it is reasonable to conclude that a person has the potential to be held legally responsible for the content posted, provided the underlying circumstances. It’s also important to consider the intent of the retweet, especially if meant to be an endorsement of the threat propositioned within the original tweet. On the contrary, the Communications Decency Act Section 230, states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
” According to this alone, a retweeter cannot be held liable for defamation, as they are protected by free expression on the internet. This also brings into question the extent to which information, in this case, libelous statements should be censored on the internet without restricting freedom (Baase 143). With respect to libel laws and the Communications Decency Act Section 230, there is potential for legal exposure dependent upon the extent to which one’s actions will negatively affect another person, meaning each case should be considered separately when determining the consequences. Ultimately, it is important to remember that while the First Amendment protects freedom of speech as a constitutional right, that libel and direct, specific threats are not a protection under the First Amendment (Baase 140), and, therefore, can have legal consequences.