A Malaysian activist accused a media company of mistreating his pregnant friend. The magazine sued for defamation, and now the activist has agreed to an unusual penalty — apologizing 100 times on Twitter.
According to the AP, Fahmi Fadzil tweeted back in January that his friend had been mistreated by her bosses at a magazine owned by BluInc Media. He apologized a few hours later, but the company demanded money and a newspaper apology. They've now arrived at a settlement whereby Fadzil will tweet the following message 100 times over the next three days:
I've DEFAMED Blu Inc Media and Female Magazine. My tweets on their (human resource) policies are untrue. I retract those words and hereby apologize.
The whole case seems a little fishy — did Fadzil really discover something just a few hours after his first tweet that proved his friend's allegations false? Or has he just been pressured by BluInc? As the AP points out, defamation suits aren't new in Malaysia — nor are defamation cases involving writings on the Internet. But the 100-tweets penalty is certainly a new one. In addition to being humiliating for Fadzil, it will probably be really annoying for his 4,200-plus followers, some of whom may well unfollow him to avoid being subjected to his half-hourly apologies. The penalty may also damage his credibility as an activist — how much will his readers trust him after he's agreed to retract one of his statements 100 times? BluInc probably considered all of this when negotiating the settlement, and in a way the punishment they arrived at is pretty ingenious. Maybe Malaysia will see more Twitter centapologies now — and while this may be good news for companies, it's not so good for writers who need the freedom to criticize them. With new media must come new protections for those who use it in a legitimate way — and unless Fadzil was out-and-out lying about BluInc, it sounds like the Malaysian legal system hasn't caught up.
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