Inside jokes lacking context can incur legal liability

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... Plaintiff Dennis Feitosa alleges that Defendant Daniel Keem defamed him when he tweeted that "Def Noodles," Feitosa's YouTube persona, had been accused of grooming 12- to 15-year-old girls….

Keem also argues that the Tweet is protected by the First Amendment because it is not a factual assertion capable of being proven true. Rather, he argues, in light of the Twitter context, the Tweet is clearly a joke, an example of hyperbolic and rhetorical speech that no reader familiar with the Twitter genre would have taken as stating provable facts. Keem explains that within the insular influencer world both Feitosa and Keem inhabit, "comedians, entertainers, gamers, and influencers often post salacious and sometimes-controversial mocking content about each other and others with the hope of generating reactions among those who follow them."
But here, unlike the cases cited above, Keem does not point to a discrete publication like a complete news article or a full broadcast that this Court could consult to shed light on the meaning of the Tweet. Rather, Keem submits his own selection of tweets and a link to a podcast interview to support his version of the context this Court should consider.

Keem's submissions are far broader than what courts normally consider in assessing a statement's context, let alone what courts consider on a motion to dismiss. They risk depriving Feitosa of a fair adjudication by asking this Court to consider an incomplete record. This Court therefore declines to consider the documents Keem submits and will only consider the face of the complaint.

Considering the facts alleged in the complaint, a reasonable reader could have understood the Tweet as alleging provable facts about Feitosa: that he had been accused of grooming 12-15 year old girls for sex, that victims existed, that he had been approached for comment, and that he had declined to comment. Keem's motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Tweet is protected by the First Amendment therefore fails at this stage….

Sometimes a joke isn't a joke.
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