Google Ordered To Reveal Defamatory Blogger's Identity

Bloggers who hide behind screen names to insult people may find that online pseudonyms don't really conceal one's identity.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

August 19, 2009

2 Min Read

Bloggers who hide behind screen names to insult people may find that online pseudonyms don't really conceal one's identity.A New York state supreme court judge has ordered Google to reveal a blogger's account information to model Liskula Cohen so that she can pursue a defamation claim arising from a post last year on a Google-hosted blog.

The post at issue, titled "Skanks in NYC," was published in August 2008 though Google's Blogger service and was subsequently removed. It included pictures of Cohen in suggestive poses and referred to her using the terms "psychotic," "lying," "whoring," and "skank."

Cohen filed her suit to force Google to reveal the blogger in January and many observers were skeptical about her chance of success.

Judge Joan Madden's decision just improved those odds. Google, which resisted providing the information to adhere to its privacy policy, has revealed the blogger's e-mail address.

Cohen, in an interview on Google Morning America, said she knew the women who used that e-mail address and dismissed her as "an irrelevant person in my life."

Cohen said she spoke to the woman on the phone and said that she forgave her. "I know who it is. I know why she did it: She doesn't have anything else to do. It's sad." She said she intended to proceed with a defamation lawsuit, but added that an apology, which has not yet been offered, might change the situation.

In the interview, Cohen's attorney, Steven Wagner, characterized the judge's decision as a signal that "the Internet is no longer a safe harbor for defamatory language."

The decision might also be seen as a signal to post defamatory speech on a blog hosted abroad by a company isn't likely to comply with U.S. court orders.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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