Don’t call me a skank (anonymously)

Now who's the "ho"?

alg_liskula_cohenA Manhattan Judge has ruled that Google and/or its subsidiary must unmask the anonymous blogger who posted a series of entries into the (now defunct) blog Skanks of NYC about former Vogue covergirl Liskula Cohen. In the posts, the anonymous poster called Ms. Cohen a “skank” and a “ho” among other less than flattering monikers.  Ms. Cohen sued Google to learn the name of the poster, presumably for the purposes of filing a defamation action against her.  The Judge ruled that Google must reveal the name of the anonymous snark.

Ho, ho, ho.  Who has the last laugh now?   Well the answer certainly isn’t the blogosphere, which has gotten its keypads in a bunch over the thought of the ways this will chill the right to free speech.  Certainly there is a right to free speech, and certainly that right extends to anonymous free speech. But herein lies the misconception: many people use the phrase “free speech” to mean “I can say whatever nonsense pops into my head to anybody at any time.” Not true.  There are certain types of speech that aren’t protected by the First Amendment. You can’t, for example, yell fire in a crowded theater. You can’t incite violence. And you can’t defame someone.  That is, you can’t say, post or publish something false about a person to another that damages the victim’s reputation or ability to earn a living.  You can’t print defamation, you can’t speak defamation (that’s called slander) and you can’t anonymously send it out to cyberspace.  So if maybe the decision makes people think twice before posting defamatory speech that is not protected by the First Amendment because they’ve been under the impression that either (1) it’s protected; or (2) you’ll never find me, then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Because the decision is final but not yet entered, I’ve posted it here:


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