Anonymous bloggers aren’t safe; nor is decency
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/08/20
A friend just forwarded this story to me. A person who had been slandered on an anonymous blog created specifically for that purpose won a court case forcing Google to reveal the identity of the blogger (IP and e-address):
“Skanks for nothing: Google must ID ‘anonymous’ blogger”
“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, a zygomatically-gifted Canuck who has graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, and other magazines probably not in the bathrooms of most InfoWorld readers. Among other things, the STNBAB called Cohen ‘a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank.’ . . .
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. . . .
There is way too much nastiness on the Net hiding under the shield of anonymity. . . . 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.’”
[The way ahead for anonymous cowards seems clear: Don’t set up a blog, just send your stuff to Wikipedia ;-)]
Liskula Cohen’s court success has brought other stories of harassment by anonymous bloggers, for example “The problem with anonymous bloggers”.
Just yesterday I was reminiscing with a friend of my generation, recalling the splendid moment when attorney Joseph Welch faced down Senator Joe McCarthy:
“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
We agreed, sadly, that such words would have no impact in today’s political and social scene, where lying (“spin”) has become routine and acceptable and where few seem able to impart emphasis to what they say except by resorting to four-letter words.
Legal actions are no solution, either, no matter how satisfying this one might have been for Liskula Cohen personally. Civility, decency, ethics, morals stem from a proper upbringing, on being “well bred”, to commit another anachronism. “No breeding”, my mother used to say about the likes of Snouts and Moores.