Internet Anonymity Does Not Give Users License to Spew Hate

A Dallas internet attorney says comedian Leslie Jones may be able to bring legal action against the people who orchestrated a hate-filled social media campaign against the star of the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot. When it comes to the Internet, people think free speech allows them to do anything they want, says attorney Kenton Hutcherson. Just because you’re on the Internet doesn’t give you a license to be crude, sexist and racist.

The target of any litigation would be Breitbart Technology Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who targeted Jones with a tweet that read, “EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS.”  Jones then suffered an onslaught of overtly racist and sexist messages from Yiannopoulos’ almost 400,000 Twitter followers aimed specifically at her and reportedly stopped using Twitter to escape the harassment. Mr. Hutcherson says Ms. Jones likely has a claim against Mr. Yiannopoulos and his followers for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. “The case is similar to one where someone orchestrates a campaign to have people call you hundreds of times a day, says Hutcherson, that is a clear intrusion upon your privacy.

While the law often sets a higher bar for such cases where celebrities are involved,  Mr. Hutcherson says orchestrating a deliberate campaign to harass Ms. Jones may be considered over the legal line. In addition, Mr. Hutcherson says Ms. Jones can claim actual economic damages because she is a movie star, and being unable to use social media detracts from her ability to market herself and create more business opportunities. He says there also could be punitive damages because everything that happened was willful. I think you could argue that Yiannopoulos acted deliberately, knowing his many followers would harass Ms. Jones.

To speak with Kenton Hutcherson, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

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