In New York, some clown started a blog called “Skanks in NYC” for the sole purpose of heaping verbal abuse on, well, whatever people he thought deserved that appellation. The blog was hosted by Blogger.com, a Google service. The site apparently was active for only a day, during which the clown posted five items, one of them referring to a model named Liskula Cohen as a “ho” and a few other things.
Ms Cohen wanted to know who was speaking ill of her, and asked Blogger to disclose that information so she could pursue a defamation suit. I pick up the story from CNN:
On Monday, New York Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden ruled that Google must hand over to Cohen any identifying information it possesses about the blog’s creator. ‚Ä¶¬†”The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions,” the judge said ‚Ä¶.
And Blogger did, under the court order, turn over to Cohen the IP and email addresses of the blogger. A Google attorney said the company was sensitive to both privacy and to cyberbullying, but a court order trumps any concerns of the company.
Now it turns out that the blogger clown is one Rosemary Port, a Fashion Institution of Technology student who, according to the Daily News, had been involved in some sort of personal quarrel with Cohen. Cohen has decided not to pursue the defamation suit. Port, however, says she will sue Google for $15 million for invasion of her privacy.
“Before her suit, there were probably two hits on my Web site: One from me looking at it, and one from her looking at it,” Port said. “That was before it became a spectacle. I feel my right to privacy has been violated.”
That’s an odd transition — she put it up on the Web where anybody in the world could see it. But only a couple of people did, so she claims a privacy invasion when so much attention got focused on it. Still, she didn’t think she was going to be unmasked. Port’s lawyer makes a knee-jerk appeal to the pseudonymously published Federalist Papers, which lobbied for adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
Bloggers (and blog commenters) beware. You can use anonymity tools, such as Tor, if you are really worried about being discovered, but if you do something unlawful behind the veil of an anonymous blog, your cover may be blown.
(It’s a separate question whether calling someone a “ho” or a “skank” actually constitutes defamation. I have no opinion on that one.)