RealTime IT News

Google Ordered to Reveal Blogger's Identity

News flash -- someone was slandered in a blog post. Granted, this goes on every day, but model Liskula Cohen, who has appeared on the cover of Vogue and elsewhere, decided to do something about it.

"Why should I let it go? Why? Why should I just ignore it? I couldn't find one reason to ignore it, so I didn't," Cohen told "Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer in an interview, after being called a "skank" and a "ho" on a blog.

The blog post in question appeared a year ago and the blog was reportedly taken down in March of this year. It included pictures of Cohen under the heading "Skankiest in NYC".

Cohen said she decided to sue Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) for allowing the comments on the site, which was hosted by Google's Blogger.com service. She also described herself as a "serial monogamist" and said the posts impaired her ability to get modeling jobs.

"The thrust of the blog is that she's a sexually promiscuous woman," Judge Joan Madden of the New York State Supreme Court said in her ruling, which ordered Google to reveal the blogger's identity.

Google actually only gave Cohen the blogger's IP address and e-mail, but it was enough to reveal her identity.

While the blogger's name hasn't been made public, Cohen told "Good Morning America" that she intends to sue the author personally for defamation. She also revealed that she spoke to the blogger by phone and said she did not apologize, though Cohen added that she forgave her.

Legal issues

"We sympathize with anyone who may be the victim of cyber bullying," Google said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com. "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. If content is found by a court to be defamatory, we will of course remove it immediately."

"We can't comment on specific cases, but it's our policy to comply with valid court orders," the company said.

Journalist Richard Brandt, a blogger and technology writer with an upcoming book about Google's founders, said the search giant had to comply.

"Legally, Google has no choice. Google's policy has been not to turn over anyone's private information unless ordered to by the courts," Brandt told InternetNews.com.

In the "Good Morning America" interview, Sawyer noted the blogger's defense lawyer had argued that opinion and "trash talk" is common on the Internet. In response, Cohen's lawyer, Steven Wagner, said Judge Madden "balanced first amendment rights with the rights of people to be protected from harmful, defamatory speech."

He said the ruling is "sending out a message that the Internet is no longer a safe harbor for defamatory language."

Brandt agreed that some limitations should be enforced.

"You can't just slander someone, anonymously or otherwise. If you say something that hurts someone's reputation or career, you should be subject to a lawsuit," he said. "Just because it's on the Internet, you shouldn't have any more protection than you have elsewhere."