Cybersmear – the Skank Blogger Plans to Sue Google for $15m for Disclosing Her Identity

24 August 2009 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

A recent ruling about an alleged anonymous slanderous blogs about a New York City model made it to the front page of every news media on the Internet when a New York City Judge ruled that Google had to identify the name of the person who ran the blog called “Skanks of NYC.” When Liskula Cohen (the defamed model ) learned the identity of the anonymous blogger was Rosemary Port, a 27-year-old student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Cohen decided to not pursue any slander claims against Port. In an interesting turn of events, now Port claims that Google somehow breached a fiduciary duty and Port’s attorney is bringing a claim against Google for $15M.

Internet Anonymity Protection

Without question the First Amendment of the US Constitution provides the right of free speech and citizens can anonymously make public statements with impunity, except if the statements are slanderous, libelous, or violate some law.

What Did the Judge Say?

Cohen filed a lawsuit in January 2009 against the unknown blogger (I assume Jane Doe) and in the normal course of a Cybersmear lawsuit a subpoena was issued to Google to learn the identity of the anonymous blogger. The legal question was whether the anonymous blogger breached the contractual terms of service with Google. If there was a breach by the blogger then the blogger lost their right to anonymity. You have to look at the Google Blog Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Content to determine if the blogger violated these terms. Google must have decided that Port violated the contractual terms and then whether her identity became public was up to the New York City Judge.

Apparently Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden believed there was slander and wrote in her decision that "the thrust of the blog is that [Cohen] is a sexually promiscuous woman," and accordingly Google was obligated to disclose Port’s identity since Port violated the contract terms with Google.

How Does Cybersmear Work?

Cybersmear cases have been around for a while and often relate to anonymous postings on sites like Yahoo! Finance where people regularly make anonymous statements about stock values, alleged criminal behavior by corporate officers, and you can just image. Generally once the identity of John or Jane Doe is made public the parties work things out, the posting stop, and there are no headlines.

In this instance Port claims the only person on the Internet who saw "Skanks of NYC" blogs was Cohen, and ironically because of Cohen’s lawsuit and the alleged violate by Google of Port’s rights, now everyone on earth knows. I’m sure there a lesson in this case but generally I’m reminded of the New Yorker Cartoon where two dogs are talking and one says to the other “I had my own blog for a while, but decided to go back to pointless, incessant barking.”

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Authors

Related Services

Insights