Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skanks for nothing: Google must ID 'anonymous' blogger

Well, it turns out mom was wrong. Again. In this case though, it's the name-callers who are in danger of getting stoned (no, not in that way).

Yesterday a U.S. Federal judge ruled that Google must turn over the name of an anonymous blogger who took a severe disliking to aging supermodel Liskula Cohen. The ripples emanating from the ruling could potentially wash over every member of the blogosphere (including those who delight in anonymously depositing nasty comments on blogs -- you know who you are).

The backstory: In August 2008, some soon-to-not-be-anonymous blogger (STNBAB) created a Google blog called "Skanks in NYC" (no longer available, but archived at Mahalo). The sole topic of this short-lived blog: Liskula Cohen.

Among other things, the STNBAB called Cohen "a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank." He (she?) also called Cohen "an old hag." I bet that's the one that really stung.

(Note: This blog takes no position whatsoever on the relative skankiness of any supermodel, Cohen or otherwise. I'm sure they're all just sweet-natured gals at heart. Also: 100 percent virgins. But I digress.)

Cohen's attorneys sent a nastygram to the blogger, who immediately removed "Skanks in NYC" from Blogger.com. But it didn't end there. Last January Cohen sued Google, demanding it reveal the blogger's identity. Yesterday, the court ruled that Google had to hand over the only information it had -- the blogger's IP and e-mail addresses.

So it looks like STNBAB is about to be sued for defamation, libel, and anything else Liskanka -- err, Liskula's attorneys can dig up. Bad news for him/her, but potentially worse news for the rest of us. Because if anonymous speech on the Internet is no longer anonymous, some people will simply stop speaking.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. There is way too much nastiness on the Net hiding under the shield of anonymity. "Skanks in NYC" is a good example of this, but virtually every blog with any traffic suffers from the Anonymous D------ Commenter syndrome (fill in the blanks yourself). A lot of that would go away if people had to staple their own identities to what they actually said.

Yes, free speech is a good and powerful thing. But as a wise superhero once said, "with great power comes great responsibility."

Allen Wastler, managing editor at CNBC.com, finds some hope in the 'skank ruling':

...I do get a little riled when "mainstream media" -- by comparison to blogs -- gets tagged for not being tough or hard on certain people or subjects. Hey, I could be the roughest, toughest bully Corporate America has ever seen ... if I could be anonymous and not worry about threatening calls from lawyers.

But when you work for a newspaper, a TV network, or an established Net news site, you have to follow the journalistic rules: You back things up, with your identity and your reporting ... or you get sued.

The flip side of this: Anonymous speech that really does need to be anonymous, like blogs by political dissidents in repressive countries. The tactics used by Liskula's attorneys are not all that dissimilar to those employed by the Chinese government to force information about its political enemies out of Yahoo, Google, and others, except of course that her attorneys don't have tanks.

How far this ruling will extend is unknown at this point. But I think the lesson here is be careful whom you attack on the Net, because they might be able to find you and fight back.

One long-term impact of all this is obvious, though: The search term "skank NYC" is now permanently anchored to Liskula Cohen's name on Google. If she was trying to protect her reputation, she went about it in exactly the wrong way.

If you're wondering who the heck is Liskula Cohen? Wiki offers that the Canadian-born fashion model, is based in New York, and once appeared in, and on the covers of, various fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle, and Cleo she's now 37 and considered by many a bar fly who seems to enjoy the NYC club and bar scene with just about anyone who will buy her a drink. She's also famous for being on the losing end of a fight with a New York City Doorman and the 40 plus stitches that were required to repair her face. The doorman served 30 days for his role in the fracas.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, Cedar, I can see where this COULD have ramifications for Blogs.

BUT....THAT WOULD ONLY BE IF THE THINGS YOU WERE POSTING WERE NOT TRUE!!!!

And I do agree, if anyone is posting or blogging about things that are not true, then I believe some things should be in place to prevent that.

But if the things you are blogging about or posting about ARE TRUE...and could be proven in a court of law...and the justice system would become involved..and the power of subpoena....and testifying UNDER OATH....if all these things were to become involved, THAT MAY BE A GOOD THING, NO?

el grande said...

Well, it could be a good thing at Cedar's expense. C may not see it that way once a lawyer starts cleaning out his wallet. :-)

Anonymous said...

You really believe that LC and ray/ray want their very dirty laundry aired on PrimeTime, Alive at Five? :)

And I do agree, Cedar has said nothing that is not true, and he HAS NOT stooped to name calling and lies..as this other guy has.

It seems to be apples and oranges IMHO.

Proof and witnesses make a LOT of difference.

And if people were compelled to take an oath, ALL the truth would come out.

el grande said...

Anon - agreed on all points. But, anyone can sue someone and cause financial harm as "collateral damage". In any event, I like what Cedar does here and I am not even directly involved in this mess.

I'm not as confident that the truth would come out - even under oath. Some people don't care who they lie to (forgive that dangling preposition).

Color me pessimist. :-)

Anonymous said...

el grande,
I see your point, too. And, like you, I am not "directly" involved, either.

But I think Cedar, and people like him, ARE doing a great service to the public. They are TRYING to keep things out of the shadows and in the open.

Yes, unfortunately, people do lie under oath, commit perjury.

BUT, as I alluded to, and from what I have heard, if it ever came to legal action, many, many people would be compelled to "testify", and, from what I have heard, they would be more than willing. If it meant bringing an end to the rodney and ray show.

I am not naive, though, and realize "legal" proceedings have their consequences, even for the ones trying to do a service.

These two just may continue to drive the CMPD into the ground and move on to greener pastures to repeat the cycle again, facing no consequences. It is really all about smoke and mirrors and dog and pony shows, it seems to work for them on some level. I blame it on apathy mostly.

But with all the corruption, cronyism, lying, misrepresentation in all areas of government, I think people are just weary of it all, and end up thinking, "so what, who cares". Dangerous thinking, but understandable.

DaisyDeadhead said...

I recently got a really alarming, scary troll on my "women should have the right to go shirtless" thread. I figured I'd get trolls, of course (the post got about 4000 hits, total) but this troll had a site with photos of battered women on it... you know, the guy LIKES battered women... and it seriously freaked me out. I was getting ready to yell back at him, but when I saw his website? Yow! I panicked and deleted his comment, the first one I have ever deleted from my blog. (So much for all my lefty free-speech declarations! :P )

Keep in mind, it isn't just the name calling and "skank" that women have to deal with. As George Sodini proved, some of these guys are lifelong misfits and very embittered--and you can't always tell em apart at first. The internet has finally given them an anonymous outlet, which maybe is the last thing they need.

I think everyone needs to register a name, rather as blogger or gmail does. There is "anonymous" and then there is "pseudonymous"--and I need to stay "anonymous" for my work environment also. But everyone knows who I am, I have a pseudonym that I use for blogs, and I think everyone should use one.

Then, if there is a problem with misogynist threats, we know where to find em.

But yes, I see the problems here, too. (((sigh))) The net has brought about a whole NEST of issues that The Founders could never have foreseen.

Anonymous said...

Cedar, is this the reason we haven't seen the rodney "expose" yet? Has anyone threatened you with exposure?
Just curious....

On another note, I heard that the "new" procedures and process for promotion have come out, this is PUBLIC information.

Two changes that stood out were, the elimination of the SCOCE, which has always been used as part of the promotion process, and rightly so. (It is, or was, in essence, a "performance appraisal", something that just about EVERY job in the world has.)

Seems that rodney and ray felt it was "unfair", so I have heard, and eliminated it from the process.

Once again, lowering the standards at CMPD. I mean, really, what should job performance have to do with getting promoted?????

The second thing that was noticed was the changing of hands of companies that conduct the process.

The new company orchestrating procedures is a company out of VIRGINIA (does that surprise ANYONE?),cronyism being what it is at CMPD. And guess what, this "company" will SELL you a book to "prepare" you for the process.
Now, come on, does that not seem like a serious conflict of interest to you? They are conducting the process AND selling a book profiting from "helping" you pass the process?So they are telling you exactly what they are looking for and telling you what to do to pass "their" process successfully....sounds like a no brainer to me!

Oh, and there is only ONE book on the reading list this time for Sergeant. Wow, hope it doesn't tax people too much.

Let's just do away with any fair "process" altogether and just have rod/ray hand pick whomever they want, as it would seem that is the way it's going anyhow.

The backlash from this, as with everything else they have done, will be felt for a long time...like lowering standards at the academy, doing away with any training over and above state mandated training,, etc., etc., etc.....the list is very long.

If I were a WAM at CMPD, I would be studying my ass off for the sergeants exam this time around at CMPD, if they have made the process easier, go for it!! (And it would seem the archaic "rule of five" does not apply to the sergeants list, so there is very little rod/ray can do if you finish high on the list, to keep you from getting promoted!)

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Rexxfield Libel Hunters said...

Freedom of speech is a great ingredient of a free and transparent world. Notwithstanding as with many noble things open to misuse. If however the declaration hurts an innocent individual, then the price is unreasonable.

Nonetheless, fallacious allegations and slanderous blogs are frequently distributed by miscreants. Like a cat to a mouse, they enjoy tormenting or hurting others; they're actually fueled by the suffering of others; a victim's despair is their twisted reward, their "narcissistic supply". Regular folk such as 90%+ of the individuals reading this article cannot begin to think what drives these individuals.

This sad civic hindrance has grown exponentially within the preceding decade in the form of anonymous e-slander. In internet libel law suits where authorities have issued orders directing that anonymous forum posters should be uncloaked by subpoena, these orders are ofttimes a cause of outrage for a trivial yet noisy band of zealous proponents who deem that freedom of expression should be absolute and unconditional & the utterer can not be held accountable for his or her utterances, irrespective as to nobility or maliciousness behind the assertions. Some suppose that if these same noisy pundits could observe the debilitating consequences of a relentless internet enabled sociopath and the physical, vocational, emotional, & social wellness of targets or their family; they wouldn't be so loud in their opposition.