An anonymous blogger using a blogger.com account created a site called “Skanks in NYC” on which he said obnoxious and offensive things about Liskula Cohen, a former Vogue (etc.) cover girl. A NY Supreme Court judge has ruled that Google (owner of blogger.com) will provide Cohen with whatever identifying info it has about this blogger.
Google has complied with the ruling. Cohen’s legal team intends to use the IP address and email provided by Google under the court order to find out the identity of the blogger and sue her. Or him.
The unidentified creator of the blog was represented in court by an attorney, Anne Salisbury, who said her client voluntarily took the blog down when Cohen initiated legal action against it.
Salisbury suggested that Cohen is more interested in attracting publicity than restoring her reputation. She contended her client’s blog would have languished harmlessly in obscurity had Cohen not filed suit. The site had negligible traffic and only five posts on it, all written on a single day, she said.
Whatever. This case does show that your basic anonymous blogging is not guaranteed.
I should note that the “Supreme Court” in New York State is not the highest court. The highest court in New York is the Court of Appeals.
In her ruling, the judge quoted a Virginia court that ruled in a similar case that nameless online taunters should be held accountable when their derision crosses a line.
“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, quoting the Virginia decision.
The defense against this argument is interesting. The blogger’s attorney argues that hyperbolic online name-calling is so rampant that it is run of the mill and normal, and not actionable. That is, of course, an absurd argument that will go nowhere. It is like saying that gangland shootings are so common in some cities they should be considered normal and legal. It is a form of web exceptional ism. I’m sure it won’t hold water.
After the ruling, a Google spokesman expressed sympathy for targets of Internet insult-slinging, but said the company divulges user information only when ordered to do so by a court.
“We sympathize with anyone who may be the victim of cyberbullying. We also take great care to respect privacy concerns and will only provide information about a user in response to a subpoena or other court order,” Google’s Andrew Pederson said.
So, if you are an asshat pseudo on blogger.com, that’s the policy you’ve got to keep an eye on.