Nicki Minaj is fighting for her reputation. Earlier this month, the rapper filed a lawsuit against an obscure internet personality who accused her of being a “cokehead.” Minaj is not the first celebrity who has had to go to bat to defend their reputation. But her complaint, filed on September 14 in Manhattan, might have unforeseen consequences as she attempts to protect herself from alleged lies spread through social media.
Too Much Freedom
Pew Research found that Americans have tended to view the impact of the Internet and other digital technologies as largely positive. A survey of US adults conducted in January 2018 found that 88% of internet users think that, overall, the internet has been a positive experience for them personally.
As the Internet has evolved, Americans have become more ambivalent about the impact of digital connectivity on society as a whole. 70% of adults continue to believe the internet has been a good thing for society. That number has declined six percentage points since 2014. An increase from 8% to 14% of online adults who say the internet's overall impact is both good and bad, corroborates that. 14% of people say that they do not believe the internet is good for them personally.
The Online Rumor Mill
Another survey from Pew Research discovered most Americans suspect made-up news is having a significant impact. 64% of adults say that fabricated news stories lead to confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.
Although they believe that “fake news” is a real issue on social media these days, 39% of Americans are confident that they can spot falsified stories, and another 45% of Americans say they are somewhat confident in their story-spotting ability.
32% of Americans say that they often see political news stories online that are clearly made up. Despite it being difficult to measure the precise extent to which people actually see fabricated news stories, these statistics provide a high-level sense of the public's perception of this type of content.
23% of Americans say that they have shared fake news at one point or another. Of those, 14% said that they knowingly shared news that was fake, while 16% said that they did not realize at the time that the story was falsified.
Americans expect social networking sites, politicians, and the general public to do their share of defending against fake news. 45% of Americans believe that the government, politicians, and elected officials bear the lion's share of responsibility for preventing the sharing of made-up news stories. Social networking sites and search engines should regulate and prevent this type of content according to 43% of those surveyed.
Even though the sentiment is pretty evenly split about where responsibility should fall, respondents were divided on how the responsibility should be distributed. 15% of Americans say that the responsibility should be shared evenly, while 58% feel that one or two of them should bear the brunt of the responsibility.
Nicki's Reputation at Risk
Nicki Minaj filed a lawsuit against a New York woman named Marley Green, who goes by the nickname “Nosey Heaux.” The lawsuit takes aim at Green's company, Nosey Heaux LLC, for being “hopelessly irrelevant and unknown.”
Minaj claims in her complaint that Green used her Twitter account and 3,300 Twitter followers to spread lies about her being a cocaine addict. Minaj vehemently denies this claim and says she has “never used cocaine.”
“In a different age, Green’s lie would have been meaningless because she is the ultimate ‘nobody’ — on information and belief, a person whose main accomplishments in life have been a string of criminal charges, bail jumping, and bad debts,” the complaint states. “But this is the age of social media, one in which a ‘nobody’ can find an undeserved following through relentless self-promotion.”
Minaj also claims that Green made the accusations on behalf of another creator. The lawsuit accuses Green of being one of several “intermediaries” allegedly used by a separate unnamed performer trying to “advance her career” at Minaj's expense.
“While social media is an extraordinarily effective vehicle for spreading lies, it does not confer a license to do so,” the complaint states.
The “other creator” is allegedly Cardi B, according to a tweet sent from Green's Twitter account.
Taking the Next Step
While some applauded Minaj for suing a relatively unknown blogger for falsifying information about her. But Minaj's lawsuit has real potential to backfire on her.
Minaj alleges that Green's M.O. is relentless self-promotion in search of spotlights and publicity. But in filing the lawsuit, Minaj may have given her exactly what she was looking for. At the time of the filing of the complaint, Minaj claims that Green's Twitter account had around 3,300 followers. Less than a week after the news of the lawsuit hit social media, Green's account sits at more than 4,800 followers.
In an ironic twist, Minaj's lawsuit that portrays Green as a publicity-hungry “nobody” has given the blogger an even larger public profile. The lawsuit also gave the allegations of drug use more public attention than they would have gotten if she had simply ignored them. Maybe Minaj and her lawyers should have learned from the experience of another famous pop star's ill-fated legal grappling.
Streisand's Legal Troubles
In 2003, Barbra Streisand sued a photographer who had accidentally taken aerial photos of her Malibu beach house while attempting to document coastal erosion. The photographer posted the photos on the internet, and Streisand filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get them taken down.
Very few members of the public actually saw the photos before the suit was filed. But once it was made public in court, the photos suddenly became a subject of great controversy and were thrust into the spotlight. The phenomenon was dubbed the ‘Streisand effect,' — the act of bringing more attention to something by attempting to suppress it.
It Could Happen to Anyone
Whether an individual is a celebrity like Minaj, or just an average Joe, defamation cases always have the potential to backfire. Going to court to protect your reputation could result in unintended consequences, and rather than deter further attacks on your character, the process could instead invite more negative attention than it did in the first place.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website Wealth of Geeks. Alistair Vigier runs clearwaylaw.com, a website that is fighting for lawyer accountability. The public leaves 1-5 reviews for their lawyers. He enjoys writing about celebrity lawsuits and crimes.