Unmasked blogger sues Google over court order

Matt Hartley, Financial Post Published: Monday, August 24, 2009 

The formerly anonymous blogger who kicked off a media firestorm by writing a series of derogatory Web posts about a Canadian fashion model now intends to sue Internet titan Google Inc. for revealing her identity.

Canadian fashion model Liskula Cohen sued Google in January of this year after the Web company declined to provide her with the identity of the person who wrote five posts in August of 2008 that labeled her a "skank" and a "ho" on a Website entitled "Skanks of NYC" which was created using Google’s Blogger service.

Last week, New York Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden ordered Google to hand over the computer IP address and email address of the blogger, and Ms. Cohen learned that the woman behind the posts was 29-year-old fashion student Rosemary Port.

Now, Ms. Port plans to file a US$15-million federal lawsuit against Google for failing to protect her privacy, according to the New York Daily News newspaper.

"When I was being defended by attorneys for Google, I thought my right to privacy was being protected," Ms. Port told the newspaper.

"But that right fell through the cracks. Without any warning, I was put on a silver platter for the press to attack me. I would think that a multi-billion dollar conglomerate would protect the rights of all its users."

Ms. Port, who will appear on Good Morning America on Monday, told the newspaper that Ms. Cohen — whom she knew through friends and parties on New York’s fashion scene — has no one but herself to blame for the public spectacle caused by the case.

"By going to the press, she defamed herself," Ms. Port said.

"Before her suit, there were probably two hits on my Web site: One from me looking at it, and one from her looking at it. That was before it became a spectacle. I feel my right to privacy has been violated."

Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment, however, in a statement last week, the company said its stated policy is to provide authorities with personal information on its users when ordered to by a court.

"We also take great care to respect privacy concerns and will only provide information about a user in response to a subpoena or other court order," the company said. "If content is found by a court to be defamatory, we will of course remove it immediately."

Ms. Port’s lawyer, Salvatore Strazzullo, said Google breached "its fiduciary duty to protect her expectation of anonymity."

"I’m ready to take this all the way to the Supreme Court," Mr. Strazzullo said. "Our Founding Fathers wrote ‘The Federalist Papers’ under pseudonyms. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to speak anonymously. Shouldn’t that right extend to the new public square of the Internet?"

"I feel proud to live in a country where you’re not persecuted for your opinions," Ms. Port said. "That right has to be protected."

Google will only remove defamatory material from Blogger when "the material has been found to be defamatory by a court, as evidenced by a court order," according to Blogger’s terms of service.

Google purchased Blogger’s parent company Pyra Labs for an undisclosed amount in 2003.


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