July 29, 2009— -- Next time you think about getting snarky on a social network, consider this: A Chicago woman's Twitter post about her "moldy apartment" has landed her with a $50,000 lawsuit from a local management company.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Horizon Group Management LLC, which has more than 1,500 tenants in the Chicago area, filed a libel lawsuit Monday against Amanda Bonnen, a former tenant.
Although it appears that Bonnen has since closed down her Twitter account, a May 12 tweet from "abnonnen" read: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon really thinks it's okay."
Bonnen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABCNews.com.
But Horizon's Jeffrey Michael told the Sun-Times that the "statements are obviously false" and that the company did not talk to Bonnen about the post and did not ask her to take it down.
"We're a 'sue first, ask questions later' kind of an organization," Michael is quoted as saying.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Michael apologized for the "tongue in cheek comments that were made previously regarding our approach to litigation" and said the comment was taken out of context.
Michael also said that the facts that led to Horizon's lawsuit were discovered in the course of due diligence related to a class-action suit first filed by Bonnen.
"It is our position that this lawsuit is completely baseless," he said. "No mold was ever found but her unit was one of several that experienced an overnight leak during roof repairs in late March 2009 caused by an error made by an external contractor."
According to Michael's statement, Bonnen moved out of her own volition on June 30 but sued Horizon June 24.
While preparing to respond to Bonnen's lawsuit, Michael said Horizon uncovered the offending tweet and "acted to protect our reputation just as we would for any other related comment made in a public forum."
But Bonnen is not the first to tweet her way into trouble.
Most would argue that social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, that have attracted millions of users, including celebrities and politicians, are powerful tools for communication. But it's amazing how much controversy short tweets and status updates can cause.
Here are nine other people who ran into problems on Facebook and Twitter:
You may think your Facebook page is personal, but depending on what you share, your posts could lead to professional consequences.
An aide for a New York official resigned Monday over comments posted to Facebook Friday about the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
On Monday, City Hall News reported that Lee Landor, deputy press secretary for Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, referred to President Barack Obama as "O-dumb-a" on her Facebook page.
According to screen grabs of the Facebook posts on City Hall News' Web site, Landor wrote in one post, "O-dumb-a, the situation got "out of hand" because Gates is racist not because the officer was DOING HIS JOB!"
The screen grabs also indicate that, during workday hours, Landor had an ongoing debate with several other Facebook members about the Gates incident.
In another post, Landor wrote, "And racial profiling does exist, but for good reason. Take a look at this country's jails: who makes up the majority of inmates? Exactly."
ABCNews.com could not immediately reach Landor for comment.
But Dick Riley, communications director for Stringer told ABCNews.com, that the office learned of the posts from the City Hall News story and issued a statement Monday evening about Landor's resignation.
"Ms. Landor's comments were totally inappropriate and in direct contradiction to the views of the Borough President and his office. The Borough President has accepted Ms. Landor's resignation, effective immediately," Riley said in the statement.
Schwarzenegger Wields 2-Foot-Long Knife on Twitter
Last week, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger raised eyebrows after he was seen wielding a two-foot-long knife in a video link posted onTwitter.
In a 27-second clip posted Tuesday, the husky governor addresses the Twittersphere while holding a 2-foot-long knife.
While the state wrestles with a $26 billion deficit, the celebrity turned Republican governor posted the video as a thank you to constituents for their ideas on how to pay down the massive deficit, particularly one suggestion to autograph and then auction off state-owned cars.
"Hey guys, I just want to say thanks very much for all the great ideas you're giving me," he said. "You come up with great ideas. Why not just sign the cars since you're a celebrity governor? Sign the cars and sell it for more money. … That's exactly what we're going to do."
According to The Associated Press, Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear said the knife was a gift from a friend and arrived Tuesday. He also said the governor actually does intend to sign state vehicles before they're auctioned off in late August. Officials estimate that selling 15 percent of the state's 40,000 government-owned cars could raise about $24 million.
When a reporter asked Schwarzenegger Wednesday whether the video was appropriate, given how seriously the budget cuts are affecting the lives of some Californians, the governor went on the defense.
"Not that I have fun with making the cuts -- they sadden me -- but ... that doesn't mean that you cannot wave a knife around, or to wave your sword around, to get the message across that certain cuts have to be made because it's budget time," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference.
In early July, author Alice Hoffman caught some flack for getting huffy with a critic via Twitter. Hoffman wasn't too pleased when Roberta Silman said Hoffman's novel "lacked the spark of earlier work" and that "the author doesn't deliver" in a Boston Globe review of her new book, "The Story Sisters."
According to the tweets reprinted on Gawker, she called Silman a "moron" and said "no wonder there is no book section in the Globe anymore."
Her tweets continued, until finally Hoffman committed a major social media no-no and posted Silman's phone number on Twitter in case followers wanted "to tell Roberta Silman off."
Her tiff generated such a buzz that she finally issued an apology through her publicist.
"I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course I was dismayed by Roberta Silman's review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn't.
"I'm sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that's the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn't mean to hurt anyone and I'm truly sorry if I did," she wrote.
If you're heading out of town, should you think twice before tweeting it out to your followers?
One Arizona man thinks so.
Before leaving with his wife in June, Israel Hyman told his approximately 2,000 Twitter followers that they were "preparing to head out of town," that they had "another 10 hours of driving ahead" and later, that they "made it to Kansas City," CNET reported at the time.
But when they returned home, they found that someone had broken into their home and stolen video equipment he used for his video business -- to the tune of a few thousand dollars.
"My wife thinks it could be a random thing, but I just have my suspicions," he told The Associated Press. "They didn't take any of our normal consumer electronics.
"The customers have never met me in person," Hyman said. "Twitter is a way for them to get to know me. I forgot that there's an inherent danger in putting yourself out there."
Det. Steven Berry of the Mesa Police Department, which is investigating the burglary, said, "You've got to be careful about what you put out there. You never know who's reading it."
Al Roker Tweets From Jury Duty
In May, "Today" show weatherman Al Roker found himself in a blizzard of headlines when he snapped photos of potential jurors on his iPhone and -- in violation of court rules -- posted them to his Twitter page.
Newspapers had a ball, with the New York Post headlining a story with, "Oh, What a Twit!" But Roker promptly apologized to officials at Manhattan's Criminal Court. He called the mistake "inadvertent," but defended himself.
"Folks need to lighten up," he said in a later Twitter posting. "I'm not breaking laws ... just trying to share the experience of jury duty. One that I think is important and everyone should take part in."
David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, echoed Roker's sentiment, while saying the picture taking was "ill advised."
"No harm was done," Bookstaver said, adding, "What's more important is this shows Al came to do his civic duty, and we're happy about that. It's a good example that nobody's exempt."
In March, the NBA came down hard on Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban for tweeting grievances against referees. The NBA hit him with a $25,000 find for publicly criticizing officials after the Denver Nuggets beat his team, the Dallas Mavericks.
Using Twitter, he complained that Denver's J.R. Smith was not called for taunting Antoine Wright after he missed a shot.
After he heard about the fine, he wrote, "can't say no one makes money from twitter now. the nba does."
Top House Republican Tweets From the Green Zone
We all want our elected officials to be transparent in their motivations. But maybe there's such a thing as too much transparency when Twitter is involved.
In February, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., found himself in a bit of hot water when he updated the public on his travels through Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Just landed in Baghdad," the congressman declared on Feb. 5 at 9:41 p.m., The Associated Press reported at the time.
Later that evening, he disclosed more details: "Moved into green zone by helicopter, Iraqi flag now over palace. Headed to new U.S. embassy. Appears calmer, less chaotic than previous here."
Hoekstra said he wasn't in the wrong, pointing out that other high-level officials also tweet their travels.
But the episode led the Pentagon to review its policy, as it views such information as sensitive, The Associated Press reported.
But he's not the only politician to have trouble with Twitter.
When his party came close to convincing a Democratic state senator to defect in February, Jeffrey Frederick, then the state's party chairman, tweeted a tease.
"Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power-sharing underway," he wrote.
The switch would have created a 20-20 tie in the state Senate, broken by the state's Republican lieutenant governor, The Talking Points Memo reported.
Frederick's tweet upset the upset. The Democrats read the message, mobilized and made sure the senator stayed on their side of the aisle.
Job Hunter Jeopardizes -- Maybe Loses -- Offer With Tweet
One job hunter -- on the verge of employment -- ran into trouble with a potential employer after an unfortunate tweet.
"Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating my work," the applicant wrote, according to MacWorld.
But someone from Cisco was paying attention and wrote back, "who is the hiring manager. I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are well versed in the Web."
The tweeter switched on the privacy settings after this message. So the blogosphere never learned the end to the story. But it led to much online speculation, ridicule and even a dedicated Web site, ciscofatty.com.
Sometimes, even the most tech-savvy of the technorati run into trouble online.
In March, New York Times consumer tech columnist David Pogue shared his personal phone number with a few too many people when he first started getting used to Twitter.
Thinking he was sending private notes to just a few Twitter friends, he let loose a message with his phone number included.
Imagine his surprise when he realized that he had sent the number to 21,000 Twitter followers instead.
Within seconds, he wrote in a column, he realized his mistake and followed up as fast as he could: "YIKES! I'm so sorry, that was meant to be a direct message. Have mercy ... Please disregard my phone number!"
A follower recommended that he delete the post, which Pogue didn't even know he could do.
But he said that the crowd was sympathetic. Not a tweeter called his number and one wrote, "You'll be ok. Folks are respectful when it really counts."