‘Skanks in NYC’ blogger plans $15 million lawsuit against Google
Last week, an online catfight turned into a pillory by press, when model Liskula Cohen used a defamation lawsuit to reveal the identity of a blogger who had been bashing her on a blog called ‘Skanks in NYC.’
Cohen started pursuing the defamation suit against the anonymous ‘Skanks’ blogger in January after discovering the site, on which the blogger called Cohen a skank, a ho, and an old hag, among other nasty things, and posted photos of her, taken from various websites. Since Cohen needed the identity of the blogger in order to file the lawsuit against her, a judge in Manhattan granted Cohen’s request to force Google to reveal the e-mail address and IP address of the alleged defamer.
With that information, Cohen identified the blogger as Rosemary Port, a casual acquaintance and an unemployed “nightclub hostess,” who was upset with Cohen for things she had said to Port’s boyfriend. The media pulled Port’s name from the court papers and have written lots of stories about her. Port is pissed, and now she’s suing Google for disclosing her identity.
I wrote last week that privacy advocates were concerned about the judge’s forcing Google to reveal the blogger’s identity. Experts call it a “tough intersection between free speech and defamation.” It’s not very cool to go online and call someone a skank, but the question is: is it very constitutional?
Port thinks it is, and so perhaps do the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. These non-profits are trying to protect our rights to say mean (and sometimes righteous) things anonymously and not fear being outed. Though to be fair, these groups are more concerned about protecting valid criticism than skanky allegations. They’ve launched Cyberslapp.org to help protect this right:
A new form of lawsuit called a “CyberSLAPP” suit is threatening to overturn the promise of anonymous online speech and chill the freedom of expression that is central to the online world. CyberSLAPP cases typically involve a person who has posted anonymous criticisms of a corporation or public figure on the Internet. The target of the criticism then files a frivolous lawsuit just so they can issue a subpoena to the Web site or Internet Service Provider (ISP) involved, discover the identity of their anonymous critic, and intimidate or silence them.
via cyberslapp.org .
Cohen’s $3 million defamation lawsuit against Port does indeed appear to have been frivolous. She said she’s now dropping it.
Will Cyberslapp get behind Port’s $15 million lawsuit against Google? Port and her attorney definitely have the rhetoric down in their statements to the Daily News:
The pretty 29-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology student added that she’s furious at Google for revealing her identity, so much so that she plans to file a $15 million federal lawsuit against the Web giant.
“When I was being defended by attorneys for Google, I thought my right to privacy was being protected,” Port said.
“But that right fell through the cracks. Without any warning, I was put on a silver platter for the press to attack me. I would think that a multi-billion dollar conglomerate would protect the rights of all its users.”
In her suit, she’ll charge Google “breached its fiduciary duty to protect her expectation of anonymity,” said her high-powered attorney Salvatore Strazzullo.
“I’m ready to take this all the way to the Supreme Court,” Strazzullo said. “Our Founding Fathers wrote ‘The Federalist Papers’ under pseudonyms. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to speak anonymously. Shouldn’t that right extend to the new public square of the Internet?”
“I feel proud to live in a country where you’re not persecuted for your opinions,” Port said. “That right has to be protected.
The Federalist Papers equated with ‘Skanks in NYC’? Oh yeah, totally see the parallels…
UPDATE: This lawsuit is dead in the water, says privacy expert Dan Solove.