Are Twitter messages a stream of opinion and hyperbole that shouldn’t be taken seriously, or a serious form of communication that can expose users to defamation and libel claims?

That debate is starting to play out in the court system, where a small but growing number of lawsuits have been filed against Twitter users by those claiming to have been libeled or defamed by so-called “tweets” — the 140-character messages that users send to their followers.

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