Defamatory tweets and Interlocutory Injunctions
The recent Queensland District Court case of Kocwa v Twitter Inc, explores the growing tort of defamation in relation to alleged defamatory tweets and outlines when the Court will grant an interlocutory injunction in this regard.
In Kocwa v Twitter Inc, the Court declined to grant an injunction in favour of Mr Eddie Kocwa against Twitter to remove the publication of certain tweets Mr Kowa considered were defamatory.
The original tweet was posted by twitter user @realCarrickRyan in September 2019 and stated:
So Peter Dutton just did a commercial for a small company called SCD American Vehicles. Perhaps these photos might give you a clue why. This is their owner, Eddie Kowca. Suddenly it makes perfect sense. #auspol
The tweet then contained a collage of photographs of Mr Kocwa, one in which he was wearing the signature “Make America Great Again” cap. This tweet was subsequently retweeted by a number of users.
Mr Kocwa sought an interlocutory injunction as he claimed the tweets implied that he was a racist/white supremacist, which was argued to be extremely defamatory in nature. Interlocutory injunctions are decisions made at an interim stage during a proceeding and are granted to prevent or compel a party from doing an act. In this instance the injunction was being sought to remove the above tweet and retweets.
Decision of the District Court
The District Court was satisfied that the tweets and subsequent retweets could be taken to mean that Mr Kocwa was a racist/white supremacist. Twitter contended no such meaning arose from the tweets.
Ultimately, however, the Court declined to grant injunctive relief because (in summary):
1. Mr Kocwa had delayed bringing his application as the tweets were posted in 2019 where the Court found Mr Kocwa would likely have been aware of them well before he brought his application; and
2. The injunction was sought against Twitter and not the user that posted it, where Courts must exercise care in granting orders against companies in foreign countries which may not be obeyed. In that regard, there was no evidence before the court indicating that if the injunction was granted, Twitter would in fact remove the tweets.
Implications for Interlocutory Injunctions
Kocwa v Twitter Inc highlights the strict approach courts take to granting interlocutory injunctions. Although it was accepted by the Court that the original tweet and subsequent retweets were likely to be considered defamatory tweets , ultimately Mr Kocwa had taken too long to bring his application and did not provide sufficient evidence to persuade the Court that Twitter would obey the order.