By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Government
Should your Internet anonymity be revealed if you call someone a "psychotic, lying, whoring...skank" online? According to a new U.S. court decision, yes.
To sue the blogger for defamation, Cohen needed the blogger's identity. So she demanded it, and a U.S. court has ruled that Google must hand that identity over.
“I’m a human being. I bleed. I have feelings. When I saw that blog, it was awful. All I can say for this person is, I really truly hope that they have more in their life than this," Liskula said in the New York Post.
To be sure, the anonymous nature afforded to the Internet allows its users to stir the pot ("troll") with off-color language and opinions.
And while free speech is legal in this country, no one can argue that if you legally defame someone online, you're legally liable.
But should Google (or any other provider) be legally required to give up your identity...just to be sued?
Defamation is defined as a claim, stated or implied to be factual, that gives an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image.
The case would probably hinge on whether it can be proved that the blogger acted maliciously and spread lies about the model -- rather than simply opined about her character.
After all, it's protected free speech to say that you believe someone is disingenuous or otherwise intolerable. It's another thing to imply incorrectly that the person sleeps around, especially if you knew it wasn't true.
(If you're interested, Richard Koman at SmartPlanet sister site ZDNet explains the role of legal precedent in the case.)
But the real debate is over whether Google should be forced to reveal the blogger's identity. After all, if the blogger wins the case, he or she remains outed. There's no going back.
Is that really fair?
Is it right to establish such a precedent, when in a more oppressive nation such as China, Iran or North Korea, full disclosure silences the ability to dissent?
Do we have a right to be anonymous on the Internet?
Aug 20, 2009
Yup, for anonymous browsing you need a VPN/proxy (I use http://www.sunvpn.com/) and a "virgin" browser, with no cookies. BTW, I use 2 browsers so I don`t have to clear my cache all the time .
This model (by the way, the court agreed with her and Google gave up the blogger's identity) should be careful what she wishes for: by putting herself out there as a public person she has considerably lessened her legal protections against defamation. The standards are quite different versus a private (non-celebrity) person. Losing such a suit can be costly and may affirm the negative statements in the publi's mind. As to internet anonymity, it should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Just about everyone here who agrees that anonymity should be stripped away: Think very long and very hard about what you're saying. I am not posting a large banner on your house. I'm nailing a post on mine - specifically, my lawn - which is what a personal blog is, once we have established that Google has common carrier status (although I don't know this for sure, it sounds reasonable). So, get off my lawn. But more to the point, this is no different from finding out the details (and subsequently suing) some of the more... vitriolic, shall we say, commenters on the Huffington Post (or many most other left-wing sites) who put up the most incredibly nonsensical (and provably so) lies about many right-wing politicos. And no doubt you can find some vice versa examples as well. Do you really want to go there? Let me remind the commenters that many insults and impolite language have their roots in factual statuses that are provable - or not - and hence may be grounds for defamation and/or libel. for instance, and pardon my language, the term motherf*er has incestuous overtones - and hence hints of illegal behaviour, b*tard questions a person's legitimacy - and quite possibly legal status, "I wanna tap that ho's a*s" is most definitely on the same level as skank. It isn't even a step, much less a short one, towards applying this precedent towards political speech, which *is* what 1st Amendment rights are all about, and which as we know on the Internet has always attracted more heated discourse than other issues. It would have the side-effect of making such discussions more polite, but at what cost? I would much prefer if a far more serious issue was the one at stake - say, if the blogger had made actual claims of illegal or unethical behaviour. As it is, it's just insults.
If someone leases a billboard and then posts a sign with a remark about or picturea of someone which that person feels defames him/her, what is the recourse of the person who feels defamed? In what ways is the Internet like or unlike the billboard? I think that the two are comparable, if not totally alike. I'm for anonymity as long as the anonymous poster uses good sense and follows the rules of the site where s/he posts. If, as in the world of mules, there are no rules, common sense and good taste should prevail. It will be interesting to learn what the court decides. Anyone taking bets that the case is thrown out of court?
a ?psychotic, lying, whoring?skank? , but it may been said affectionately. Seriously, to say that this "should" be resolved in one way or another implies that we agree on what the overriding principle is. To say that "free speech" would be hindered by revealing the idiot's name misses the point that free speech was intended to allow us all put forth unpopular ideas for consideration. It was never intended to allow some coward to throw brickbats from the shadows. To say that google shouldn't have to provide the name because of some unlimited right to privacy is to allow google to act as an anonymizer for fools. After all, merely releasing the name isn't awarding damages. If the person can prove that what he says is true, there is no legal liability. Good luck with that.
Some of the comments posted here make me wish there was a "report as stupid" button next to "report as spam".
Considering the political climate around the world, the obligation to reveal the identity of a person on the net could lead to unfair inprisonment or even death in many countries. I think it is the obligation of whoever owns the website in question to remove inappropriate posts. Internet and non internet environments are two very different things, they can't be compared as equals. Besides, words are only words, and we all know that lots of things shown on the net are not true. And if only one person says something bad about another person then you already know not to place much value on that opinion.
If the point of the forum is anonymity, then yes. There should be legal protection in that case. Otherwise if it's only partially or not at all anonymous, then, well, defamation charges can apply.
Absolutely! Probable cause must be established before your privacy is invaded. Or at least it did back when judges followed the law instead of their private agendas.
i think google should hand out the name. just think about the situation in a non internet envaroment. if a hooligan post a banner over your house claming that you a low life degenerete etc, etc etc. would you want to make the person who did it reposible for that? well, unless you have a security system, the hooligan is long gone, and you would never know who it was. now, no problem just take down the post and go on with your life. well nothing is stoping the hooligan, or other like minded individuals from repeting, or escalating, the same stunt. the internet can offer such protection. and it must be used before something even worser happens. while it can be argue that it hindders free speach, but people abuse that right to distube peace. anonimity allows people to stuff , whether good or bad, without consequenses, if soundly regulated, the bad can be reduced to a minimun with little consequence to the good. plus , i would like to see if the bloger would stand up by his words or not. BuLe03
Freedom of speech is given right in the USA. What also goes along with freedom of speech is reponsibility of what you say. If you do not think before you exercise you speech rights, then don't be surprised at the consequences.
I sense publicity stunt here. And it worked, didn't it. I now know this model's name and what she looks like. Remember the old adage: bad publicity is better than no publicity.