Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Legal Definition of a Twitter Follower

Twitter has become one of the most popular social media websites. In 2009, there were several highly publicized lawsuits that were based on what people have tweeted (communicated) through twitter. Until recently, to find out what has been tweeted by someone you needed to "follow" someone's twitter feed. However, search engines Google and Bing now incorporate twitter feeds in their search engine results. For those who are not familiar with Twitter, it is a form of communication limited to 140 characters and a twitter feed is analogous to the the old stock tickers on wall street.

In order to keep abreast of the information posted by a Twitter account holder another Twitter account holder needs to become a "follower" of the account holder he or she wants to follow. Becoming a "follower" of another's twitter feed only means that you now have the ability read that person's tweets. Unlike Facebook in which someone has to be accepted as a "friend" before being able to essentially follow that person's posts, Twitter does not have that same restriction.A Twitter account holder has the ability to delete unwanted followers or to protect his/her tweets from non-followers.

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, the word "follower" is a noun and its top two definitions are:

1 a
: one in the service of another : retainer
b: one that follows the opinions or teachings of another
c
: one that imitates another
2 archaic : one that chases

I tried to unsuccessfully find a legal definition for "Twitter Follower" on Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, Black's Law Dictionary and several other online reference sources. The reason for creating a legal definition of a "Twitter Follower" is that the U.S. legal system may one day need the definition to determine possible attorney or witness conflicts of interest, alleged juror misconduct, jury tampering or connections between those involved in a legal matter.

Therefore, I propose the following legal definition for Twitter Follower:

"A person or entity who has a Twitter account who has gained access or the ability to follow or read another Twitter account holder's tweets."

Becoming a Twitter Follower of another Twitter account holder does not mean that the "Follower" or "Followee" have ever met or have any type of personal or professional relationship. For example, entertainer Ashton Kutcher has more than 4,430,000 twitter followers and he is following at least 300 other Twitter accounts. I am willing to guarantee that Mr. Kutcher does not know 99.99% of those who are following him.

Even though a person is a "Twitter Follower" of another or is a "Twitter Followee" there may not be any real connection between the Twitter account owners. To learn more about this issue you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com

Copyright 2010 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.