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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Freedom of Speech in the Internet Age

Interesting post over at BlueHampshire regarding a defamation case involving a Vogue cover model, Google, and a sharp-tounged blogger. Here's the original story at Media Bistro.
Under court order, Google has just handed over the IP address of the user of Blogger (a Google service) who had posted some very unkind things about Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen on a blog called "Skanks in NYC," including photo captions referring to her as the "Skankiest in NYC" and a "psychotic, lying, whoring ... skank."

Cohen had asked Google for the information, so she could sue the author for defamation. Google had refused, citing the company's privacy policy (though it did take down the blog). Cohen's attorney's brought the matter to court. On Monday, a New York Supreme Court justice batted down the anonymous blogger's contention that the bons mot were mere opinion and instead, according to the Guardian (UK), "found Cohen may insist in a suit that the statements are factually inaccurate." (more)
BlueHampshire poster JimC paints the story as an attack on press freedom and slams Google for turning over the blogger's information, rather than appealing the court order. Google initially fought the disclosure, citing its privacy policy. The real issue here is the New York Supreme Court's decision that calling someone names in not a matter of opinion, but a fact that can be refuted in court. How would one go about proving one is not a "skank"?

In fact, Cohen hasn't even filed a libel or defamation suit yet. So what grounds does she have to force this disclosure? I've been called plenty of names in the past, often by anonymous web posters. I never thought of going to court.

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