Social media has spawned new sorts of litigation. An Assistant Attorney General in Michigan learned that the hard way. Andrew Shirwell started a blog titled the "Chris Armstrong Watch" blog. Chris Armstrong is a former student leader at the University of Michigan and is openly gay. Mr. Shirwell, the former Assistant AG, describes himself as a "right-wing guy." In his blog, he said such things as Mr. Armstrong is a "gay Nazi" and that he is promoting a "radical homosexual agenda." Mr. Shirwell was eventually fired for his posts. See Michigan Employment Law Advisor. Mr. Armstrong sued the former Assistant AG for defamation, invasion of privacy, stalking, abuse of process, and others.
A jury returned a verdict recently for Mr. Armstrong for $4.5 million. See Michigan Employment Law Advisor. Yes, those Social Media posts can bring harm to the person posting the entry. Or, as I warn my clients when they are about to do something stupid, "you may feel good for a few minutes, but long-term, there will be a lot of pain."
If he had not been fired, would Mr. Shirwell’s employer possibly be liable also? Perhaps, especially if Mr. Armstrong had complained to the Michigan AG and the AG did nothing.
Way back when, newspapers were very partisan. They often represented a particular political party or a particular group of politicians. Feuds and worse often resulted from the mean, personal attacks uttered in newspapers 150 years ago. Social media may bring some of that partisan bickering back.