Twit Lit: Tony LaRussa Sues Over False Twitter Page

200px-Tony_LaRussa_2002200px-Twitter_logo.svgSt. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is suing Twitter over an unauthorized page that used his name and gave the false impression that he was sending embarrassing messages. The litigation in Superior Court of California in San Francisco is only the latest of such lawsuits against such companies for failing to confirm and monitor such sites.

LaRussa, 64, alleges that the unauthorized “tweets” have caused him emotional distress and is seeking unspecified damages. The account is no longer active.

It is pretty clear that the account holder was hijacking the identity of LaRussa with statements such as “Hey there! Tony La Russa is using Twitter,” with a picture of the manager. The complaint below states:

The Site states in large lettering, “Iony LaRussa is using Twitter”, and encourages users to “Join today to start receiving Tony LaRussa’s update.” It also contains a picture of Plaintiff with his name printed next to it. Beneath the picture, the Site contains written entries that are impliedly written by Plaintiff himself vhen in fact they are not. The entries are derogatory and demeaning and are damaging to plaintifps trademark rights.

What is interesting is a brief statement that reads, “Bio Parodies are fun for everyone.” If the account holder is found, it could make for an interesting case where he or she claims that the site was parody — a generally protected form of speech. However, parodies are only funny (and protected) to the extent that they are not confused with the real person. Thus, in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988), the Supreme Court held that a page on the late Rev. Jerry Falwell was clearly parody and protected despite the juvenile and disgusting content of the piece.180px-Falwellhustler The Court (both conservatives and liberals) found that such speech must be protected:

“At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern. The freedom to speak one’s mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty – and thus a good unto itself – but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole. We have therefore been particularly vigilant to ensure that individual expressions of ideas remain free from governmentally imposed sanctions.”

Generally, internet sites have been given immunity under the Communications Decency Act, which has been used repeatedly by Web providers to bar liability. Yet, this does not prevent lawsuits that sue John Does and seek discovery from the sites to determine the identity of anonymous posters. There have been a slew of lawsuits over such postings, here and here and here.
These cases highlight the protection given to Internet companies like Craigslist and Facebook from defamation lawsuits. Under a federal law and the ruling in Zeran. The Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the 1996 Act gives protections to online service providers from being sued for the actions of others. That section states: “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.”

Kenneth Zeran sued America Online for negligence. On April 25, 1995, an unidentified person posted a message on an AOL bulletin board advertising “Naughty Oklahoma T-shirts.” It was a prank that featured offensive products about the Oklahoma bombing and told interested buyers to call “Ken” at Zeran’s home phone number in Seattle. Zeran notified AOL in a series of telephone calls and letters about the bogus posting. But AOL allegedly refused to take down the material. Then the prankster put more messages on the site from Ken, not only producing more calls but leading an announcer for the Oklahoma radio station KRXO to read the messages and encouraged listeners to call Zeran.

The Fourth Circuit held that Section 320 blocked any liability, even if AOL was informed of the falsity and harmfulness of the information. It was a very harsh decision and it is not clear that the federal law was truly intended to protect these companies for any liability under any circumstance for false and harmful postings.

LaRussa’s complaint below includes such allegations as cybersquatting and trademark dilution. These are particularly interesting because Twitter is obviously benefited from having celebrities twittering on their sites (though there is no shortage of such figures). Other claims like misappropriation of name and likeness are more conventional attacks.

For a copy of the complaint, click here.
For the full story, click here.

12 thoughts on “Twit Lit: Tony LaRussa Sues Over False Twitter Page”

  1. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of.
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  2. Jonathan Frieden,

    Thank you for your succinct, clear “simple rule” legal analysis regarding Section 230 immunity clauses.

  3. As to Section 230 immunity, I recently had the opportunity to review all of the civil cases interpreting the limitations of that immunity. The simple rule emerging from those cases is clear: If the “essential published content” is willingly provided by a third-party, the interactive computer service provider publishing that content enjoys the full immunity afforded by Section 230. (See &

  4. mespo727272: “David Brin…”

    🙂 nice to see another Brin fan on the site; I once ended up working his name (as a ‘futurist) into a letter to the WH. I suspect my mail to the WH goes into a ‘special’ folder. 🙂

  5. AnonY:

    The “method to your madness”—whether chivalrous or not—was at fault. What I am personally interested from you are comments regarding the topics at hand based on your life experiences and especially those of your lawyering skills—if in fact, you are a bone fide lawyer. You were provoked, but anyone who hijacks another person’s identity is tending towards the psychotic and exhibits completely irrational behavior.

    Other than the threads like this one regarding actual identity hijacking of a famous person, let’s you and I drop the subject. We all need to realize how our conduct and words within this blawg reflect on Professor Turley and the fine lawyers who post here using their own names. Without their legal insights, this blawg would be of minimal value to me.

    As I previously mentioned soon after you arrived, I do not “get” most of what you post; however, sometimes you have some real insights and posit some good thought. At other times, you are just bizarre, but that is ultimately for the host to deal with.

    Ironically, I challenged you and Bron98, both of whom are the subjects of this recent hijack controversy, when you were telling a visitor—whom you both anointed a troll—to basically go commit suicide and you eventually issued a mea culpa that you did not want to pull a Nancy Grace. This fine blawg should not be a repository of such junk thought as there are millions of other such cesspools available online. To date, we all know who did what to whom, so please just give us the benefit of your knowledge and wit, use only *1 nom de plume*, and please keep the abject bizarreness at bay, at least on this blawg which highlights mostly current legal issues.

    I have no clout or power to exact your compliance, but I simply ask of you and others that we all respect Professor Turley’s site. During these last few months, his detractors could have visited here and stated with validity and conviction that a large number of his supporters are verifiable kooks. Furthermore, by his admission that he knew what was occurring and then did nothing to protect the integrity of his regulars who were unequivocally following the blawg’s netiquette, then he became somewhat culpable because of his nonintervention.

    Obviously, Professor Turley has a profound respect for the First Amendment, as do some others and I who post within these virtual walls. However, because this is a human endeavor, there must be unambiguous rules to protect the integrity of all who visit and post, regulars and non-regulars alike. Hijacking another poster’s identity must be the greatest infraction punishable by quick expulsion with the concurrent announcement of the charlatan’s screen name to protect others and to prevent harmful speculation of who allegedly did what.

    Thank you. I anticipate the best of good, witty, parodic, snarky-but-fair, non-sophomoric, and sans ad hominem attack postings ahead from everybody responding to the famous wit and legalistic bearing of Professor Jonathan Turley.

  6. Significant enough to mention, again, for me, it began with ‘Bartlebee’, a year ago, with unprovoked attacks on my family’s Pilgrim ancestry. And then later with any minor additional suggestion of my personal history and career successes, which I now regret mentioning at all because I have had less and less fun, here, ever since.

    That has very little to do with me, in my view. I don’t usually have much problem with people having insights about me.

    I know that I’m pretty low-maintenance, generally, but that I also have an exceptional appreciation of the finer things which I fully admit to, and for which I make no apology. I also enjoy sharing that part with good friends and family, very much
    – which I’ve demonstrated, many times, in typical turleestyle.

  7. FF LEO,

    I cannot dispute what you have stated. And I meant it that way. So if anyone is going to be the whipping “boy” Jill has been left alone.

  8. I wonder what this age of open souls will bring. With every thought, foolish or profound, on display we may learn more about our fellows than we really want to know. Those who are wont to instantly open their minds about all manner of things had best be wiling to accept the consequences of undigested thoughts projecting out into the main stream. The Zeran case was an object lesson in the dangers of spite masquerading as parody. We could learn a lesson from sci-fi writer David Brin, who opined,“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.”

  9. Since 2 of our so-called regulars have done this act of hijacking an identity within this very blawg, I wonder if they are capable of this type of ‘famous person’ hijacking.

    Professor Turley banned one imposter/cheat/charlatan/fraud/sham and phony from this site and the other is inconsistently bizarre in his denials/admissions, so I guess we will never know.

  10. This is unconscionable, how can a person defame a great American ball player. Now, if he played and I did not say work(ed) for a better all club, I could expect the damages as something more than nominal. Alas, the damages cannot be that much.

    Here are the clubs that great American played for:
    June 6, 1962: Signed by the Kansas City Athletics as an amateur free agent.
    August 14, 1971: Purchased by the Atlanta Braves from the Oakland Athletics.
    October 20, 1972: Traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Chicago Cubs for Tom Phoebus.
    Before 1974 Season: Purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Chicago Cubs.
    April 4, 1975: Released by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
    April 7, 1975: Signed as a Free Agent with the Chicago White Sox.
    December 15, 1976: Traded by the Chicago White Sox to the St. Louis Cardinals for Randy Wiles.
    September 29, 1977: Released by the St. Louis Cardinals.

    1. AnonY:

      As a Cubbie, I cannot express sympathy for a former White Sox’er but I get your point on an abstract level.

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