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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blaney's Blarney Orders Impostor Off Twitter

You've likely heard conflicting stories when it comes to impersonating someone online. The best one I've verified is AOL's continual canceling of Stephen Spielberg's account (they kept telling him he couldn't use his own name, even when he insisted he is The Stephen Spielberg!). Lately, several celebrities have informed talk show audiences that someone other than they, themselves, is using their name on Twitter. But Donal Blaney, a conservative right-wing blogger who just so happens to also be a lawyer, took it one step further and got an injunction against his Twitter impostor - and delivered it via Twitter!

It appears to have worked; there have been no more entries on the offending account since September 30th - Blaney served the injunction on October 1st. This is the first time Twitter has been used in such a manner, though not the first time a social networking site/service has been used this way. British law states the manner by which a court order is communicated is not an issue.

Blaney blogged his suspicions that the whomever was running the phony account was a "left-wing blogger," though he admitted the tweets made by the unknown Twit were only "mildly" troublesome. Some commenters on his blog noted he suffered no loss due to the fake Twitter account, so should he have had to wait until he did? A shady American company (these days there is no other kind, I'm sorry to say) filed a defamation suit against a former tenant for something she tweeted - was the real Donal Blaney not in jeopardy of similar lawsuits?

Some also suggested the courts had more important matters with which to deal, yet this is about as serious as it gets! More than just a prank, this is - in effect - identity theft. We already know you are never really anonymous online, so this situation shouldn't be minimized; whomever holds the @BlaneysBlarney Twitter account didn't just spoof someone's screen name, he assumed a real person's identity. And even though the account neither did nor said anything which caused damage to the complainant, the complainant was still being misrepresented by the @BlaneysBlarney account holder. Had Donal Blaney suffered any damages due to the account, he wouldn't have just gotten an injunction - he would have filed a motion of discovery against Twitter (but not necessarily), then sued the guy for libel/defamation.

Blaney's handling of this matter should be applauded. Not only does it circumvent the contrived and cumbersome traditional manner of handling such cases, it goes directly for the entity responsible for the crime, as opposed to holding the site responsible. The court's handling of this matter also sets precedent, so we may have a lot more stories like this one to share with you in coming months.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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