Trolls Beware!

I started off blogging a few years ago. I was never a fan of being catty online unless I associated myself with it. If I’ve been critical, it was never difficult to realize it was me being critical. It’s always been pretty easy to associate my words, whether hard or soft, with me.

If you say it’s not easy to find me from this blog, please note my Twitter stream in the sidebar.  My Twitter stream is under my real name = easy.  Before that, I was pretty much the only black female student in a foreign graduate program in Seoul.  Again, I was easy to find even if I wrote using a pseudonym.

However, online we know a lot of people are not into transparency. There are tons of people who say some pretty horrible things online. Because of anonymity, they’re pretty much shielded from any negative consequences. In some situations, this can be a good thing: corporate or even government whistle-blowers.  It’s just that in most, the person isn’t saying controversial things to expose a wrong.  It’s usually just an angry person saying mean and nasty things and getting away with it.

Well, maybe not for much longer.

Google Hands Over “Skank” Blogger Info

Model-Cohen.gifOh goodness. Looks like we’re going to have to start minding our P’s and Q’s online.

Under court order, Google has just handed over the IP address of the user of Blogger (a Google service) who had posted some very unkind things about Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen on a blog called “Skanks in NYC,” including photo captions referring to her as the “Skankiest in NYC” and a “psychotic, lying, whoring … skank.”

Cohen had asked Google for the information, so she could sue the author for defamation. Google had refused, citing the company’s privacy policy (though it did take down the blog). Cohen’s attorney’s brought the matter to court. On Monday, a New York Supreme Court justice batted down the anonymous blogger’s contention that the bons mot were mere opinion and instead, according to the Guardian (UK), “found Cohen may insist in a suit that the statements are factually inaccurate.”

As Cohen’s attorney Steve Wagner told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America today, the judge “balanced the first amendment rights with the rights of people to be protected from harmful, defamatory speech. It’s sending out a message that the Internet is no longer a safe harbor for defamatory language.”

It turns out that the perp is an acquaintance of Cohen’s, “an irrelevant person in my life,” Cohen told Sawyer. She’s already called the woman to tell her she forgives her but hasn’t ruled out a defamation suit. “Maybe if she apologizes…,” Cohen said.

Video report, including interview with Cohen, at Good Morning America.

We’ll see how this impacts blogs.  One fear I have is this will only be a weapon that can be used by those with money.  It takes having cash to be able to retain attorneys.  Average people don’t have those sorts of resources.  In that case, it’s only going to be a solution for the rich and that’s unfair because a David vs. Goliath situation can come up pretty fast.  However, let’s see how this develops and how it will impact other blogs.

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2 Responses to Trolls Beware!

  1. naughtynessie says:

    I just happened on your blog by accident and I’m glad I did. I couldn’t agree with you more on the lack of respect on the internet these days. I really enjoyed your post.
    The internet… where 95% of comments are made by people who aren’t afraid to be big and bad behind their computers for no real reason.
    Regards
    Ness

  2. rkwalton says:

    Yeah, watching the GMA piece, I could see that this was just catty and hurtful stuff.

    I’m glad Cohen pursued it. This did seem to be a case of a mean person saying mean things because she thought she could get away with it. That ought not be protected speech, and I’m glad the courts have made that clear. There is way too much meanness online.

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