Google Ordered to Reveal Identity of “Skank” Poster

A New York court ordered Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster who called model Liskula Cohen a “skank” on her blog “Skanks in NYC.” In so ruling the court held that some of the blogger’s statements may rise to the level of defamation, and as such, Cohen had the right to learn the identity of the poster and to bring a lawsuit if she chose. (Cohen did file a lawsuit, which she rapidly dismissed)

The poster, Rosemary Port, is pretty upset that her identity was revealed; she’s even threatened to sue Google for violating her expectation of privacy.

The merits of that potential lawsuit aside, the New York court’s decision to force to Google to unmask the anonymous blogger has many in the blogging world asking questions about the appropriate safeguards for anonymous online speech.

Section Seven of the proposed Citizen Participation in Government and Society Act incorporates a set of safeguards at the federal level; if an anonymous speaker’s identity is subpoenaed, the speaker can make a special motion to quash the subpoena. If the speaker can make a showing that the underlying lawsuit arises from protected speech or petition activity, the burden shifts to the plaintiff and would-be unmasker to demonstrate that the underlying claim is both legally sufficient and supported by a sufficient prima facie showing of facts to sustain a favorable judgment. If the plaintiff cannot show that level of merit, the subpoena must be quashed.

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