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Could You be Sued for Tweeting at a Conference?

November 30, 2010

It seems to have become quite popular for certain conferences to encourage delegates to use Twitter as a form of instant feedback. Delegates sit in rows with iPad’s, laptops or phones furiously Tweeting quotes from the speakers or questions they want answered. These pearls of wisdom are accompanied by a hashtag that means everyone else who is following the conference can see and engage in the conversation and they are usually displayed on a large screen on or near the stage.

Indeed the last conference Wieck AU attended one wit commented “Interesting how all eyes are on the Twitter feed rather than the speaker”.

This kind of immediate participation can be a fantastic way to ensure the audience is engaged in the topics on offer and provides a way for interested parties who, for one reason or another, couldn’t attend in person. But could this form participation land you in legal hot water?

Consider for a moment the case of The Australian’s Editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, suing University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti for defamation.

The general gist of the story is that Posetti quoted allegedly defamatory comments she said were made at a conference by reporter Asa Wahlquist, who used to work for the newspaper. In the tweets posted by Posetti, she said Wahlquist had claimed that “in the lead-up to the election the Ed-in-Chief was increasingly telling me what to write”.

Wahlquist has denied saying this and has since stated “I would like to place on record the fact I have never had a conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, about climate change, in fact I have not had any conversations with Mr Mitchell on any subject for a number of years.”

The question of who said what to whom in this specific case will undoubtedly be resolved in court however it certainly serves as a warning to any twitterholics who are would-be beetweeters, reportwitters or any other type of tweeple. If your twitterness is considered tweetsulting to the twitosphere you could easily induce twitterage and find yourself with your own hashtag – #TheDefendant.

For more on the case see –

To decipher the last couple of sentences, see –

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