In today's media world, little things mean a lot because of the speed that information can be disseminated in cyberspace. Take the case of Horizon Realty and Amanda Bonnen.
Amanda Bonnen tweeted to a friend in May, "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it's okay." Amanda Bonnen had about 20 Twitter followers.
Horizon Realty Group sued Miss Bonnen because, in the disobliging words of Horizon spokesman Jeffrey Michael to the Chicago Sun Times "We're a 'sue first, ask questions later' kind of an organization." According to the Sun Times, Michael's family has run Horizon for 25 years. Sounds like someone's not afraid of getting fired.
For that once sentence alone, regardless of the larger facts, Horizon Realty has bought itself millions of dollars in bad publicity. Horizon Realty is one of the fastest trending items on Twitter, and the tweets about them are not complimentary. There are currently over 600 Google news items on this story. By tomorrow that number will have grown fivefold. And they don't make Horizon look good.
Right now if you Google "horizon realty mold" you get 43,600 responses.
This morning I had never heard of Horizon Realty, and now I'm spending my time pointing out on the Huffpo the preening thuggery of the "sue first" remark. Mr. Jeffrey Michael could work for Horizon for the next 30 years, and the total of his salary would not pay off the bad PR he brought forth in one day with his ill-considered posturing.
There are probably hundreds of nice people working for Horizon Realty. Unfortunately, about 3 or 4 of them, clearly not Mensa members, have now made their company a viral pinata. It is one of the most epic fails in corporate PR this year, and has real implications for free expression on Twitter.
Hey Horizon, want to fix this? Quickly issue an apology as it looks like you're picking on a defenseless girl. The Twitter-blogo-sphere can be forgiving. Be gentlemen. "Sue first, ask questions later" is the motto of a group of insecure, immature, yobs.
P.S. As of 6:52 EST Mr. Michael of Horizon has issued a press release in which he states his lawsuit was part of a larger legal matter involving a water leak and assertations of building code violations by Miss Bonnen. He apologized, to the public at large, for his "tongue in cheek" remarks (i.e. "sue first, ask questions later"). To their credit, Horizon seems to comprehend the national effect of their prima facie attack on Twitter free speech. The damage, however, would appear to be done.
Follow Ron Galloway on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rongalloway