Monday, August 24, 2009

Google reveals anonymous blogger's identity

Last week I posted about the unprecedented court ruling in the US in which Google was ordered to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger, something of importance to all bloggers.

A reminder - model Liskula Cohen wanted to sue the anonymous blogger for defamation after derogatory posts were published. She sued Google to force them to reveal the name of the blogger and the court ruled in her favour.

I said at the end of the post: Whether Google will appeal the decision hasn't been announced, nor has how or when the bloggers name will be revealed. I guess it could be in open court or privately to Ms Cohen and her lawyers.

In fact Google simply obeyed the court order. It's reported that the blogger's identity was initially concealed, but somehow it's now in the public domain.

The outed blogger is Rosemary Port, a 29-year-old New York fashion student.

The story will run for a while yet because she says she's planning to sue Google for breaching her privacy.

Talk about naive: "Before her suit, there were probably two hits on my website: one from me looking at it, and one from her looking at it," Port said.

"That was before it became a spectacle. I feel my right to privacy has been violated."


Rosemary, you publish something on the web and it's there for the whole world to see. You want your written thoughts to remain private, write it with a pen in an old-fashioned paper diary and lock it in a cupboard.

When you read the new details it's a case of two women being bitchy to each other which has got out of hand.

Now the lawyers are involved, offering them huge publicity, not to mention a good percentage of any damages awarded, it will just go on and on.

Mr Murdoch's rag the New York Daily News has been running the story and it'll be fodder for the tabloids for a long time yet. The gossip angle will probably throw a smoke screen over the serious aspect of it all.


I read the latest chapter of the story in The Sydney Morning Herald, which rightly puts it in the Technology section.

16 comments:

eric blair said...

Perhaps you have spent too much time away from democracy, but in democracy one has a right to truly free speech, which is uninhibited speech free from reprisal. anonymity is an important tool to prevent reprisal. while this specific case in prima-facie insignificant, its precedent is extremely dangerous and undemocratic.

boxster said...

eric is right

silence is defeat

dissent is patriotic

blog freely and anonymously here

rosh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rosh said...

Well then, so much for the A-holes Google! They track users as is - blatant invasion of user privacy! Use Scroogle folks!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scroogle

Seabee said...

in democracy one has a right to truly free speech, which is uninhibited speech free from reprisal

What a breathtakingly naive and uninformed comment EB. Are you unaware of the laws in democracies pertaining to libel and slander, to racial vilification, to incitement to riot, to denial of the holocaust and many many more laws governing 'free speech'?

Do you not understand that this case is in the USA, a leading democracy?

in democracy one has a right to truly free speech, which is uninhibited speech free from reprisal is a fantasy. Here's a starting point from which you can learn the reality.

boxster said...

seabee

anonymous free speech is protected by the first amendment of the US constitution and reinforced so by the supreme court of the land on multiple occasions

the article you posted clearly states that australian and us laws are almost opposite when it comes to libel and burden of proof. perhaps you are inferring from what is more familiar.

i invite you to closely study the laws of the united states (which is actually a constitutional republic and not a democracy) before cherry-picking suitable information from the interwebs

Seabee said...

boxster of course I agree that all countries have their own laws relating to defamation and curbs on 'free speech'. They nevertheless have them, whether they are democracies or not.

Indeed the US Constitution does protect free speech - but that doesn't mean that the US allows unfettered free speech (which is what EB claimed for democracies). There are many laws curbing what people can say, a few of which I pointed out above - and which the case I posted about demonstrates.

Other democracies also have strong laws governing what may and may not be said or written. London is known as 'the world's libel capital' for example.

I gave the link I did because it was one that related libel laws to the internet, and I did say it was a starting point - it's impractical to give them all. There are many many others which refute EB's untrue claim in democracy one has a right to truly free speech, which is uninhibited speech free from reprisal. That was the only point I was debating.

Correcting a point you made: united states (which is actually a constitutional republic and not a democracy).

The US is not a democracy?!

A democracy is defined as a country which has a government elected by the people and the US is certainly that. Under the democratic system there are variations in the way the government is set up.

Michael Roberts of Rexxfield and Mile2 said...

Really guys, let's drop the rhetoric about what's legally permissible and cut to the chase, and that is what's right and what's wrong? The availability and universal accessibility of Internet blogging technologies has caused a 21st-century pandemic in the form of Internet smear campaigns. Some of these are initiated by normal people experiencing a temporary emotionally charged episode of poor impulse control. However, most of these are initiated by the moral minority (maybe the 3% of the population who have antisocial personality disorder) who are fueled by other people's pain.

Anonymous free speech is a wonderful thing, I would never want to see it threatened, at least the original intent of its encouragement. And that is honest and relevant dissent and whistleblowing. How many children have been saved as a result of anonymous alerts of sexual predators moving into a community? How many investors have had life savings rescued, or at least damage is mitigated, as a result of white-collar crime whistleblowing?

Benefits notwithstanding, there is no such thing as free speech! All speech has a cost, it may come at the expense of a criminal or predator in some cases, which is an acceptable, moreover beneficial cost. But when innocent people minding their own business become targets of narcissists or sociopath hellbent on destroying their family, career, business, relationships, and emotional well-being, the cost is simply unacceptable.

Rabid advocates of absolute free speech need to develop a "repulse reflex" To the garbage posted on the Internet and try to meet these victims at their level. Until somebody has personally, or through someone they love, experienced debilitating anguish associated with a relentless and malicious Internet smear campaign they simply cannot relate to how painful it is.

Respectfully submitted, Michael Roberts. Internet libel victim's advocate.
www.Rexxfield.com

Seabee said...

MR I'm in complete agreement with you.

The focus of my original post on this case was that it confirmed that bloggers are subject to existing laws, such as libel, the same as anyone else.

I started that post by saying: "I've always believed that we're governed by the laws of libel, decency and honesty which apply to any other published material. The fact that we're the new phenomenon of blogging, are amateurs and publish only on the web is immaterial."

The creation of the internet has meant that what would have been slander to a handful of friends in the past now can be libel accessible to a billion people.

eric blair said...

allow me to clarify. the structure of the internet guarantees all kinds of free speech whether we like it or not. ("the internet regards censorship as damage and routes around it") ergo, for shall we say, 'regrettable' speech it has become the responsibility of the audience to filter the unnecessary, predatory, and repulsive. the idea of restricting speech is antiquated and impractical. this fact of the present day is a realization of the dream of the framers of the US constitution.

Seabee said...

You may not like it, you may choose to not believe it, but the law says differently EB, whether it's the internet or any other form of communication.

Ana said...

I like this phrase you posted:

"Rosemary, you publish something on the web and it's there for the whole world to see. You want your written thoughts to remain private, write it with a pen in an old-fashioned paper diary and lock it in a cupboard."

It hits the dartboard right in the bull's eye. For all I know, we have an option in blogger not to allow search engines to index the posts or at least only invite people we trust. Rosemary should have used that option first hand if she didn't want her thoughts and ideas to be public.

Anyway, the damage is done and all we can do is wait and see. - Philippines Blogger -

boxster said...

In the United States people vote, but the president is selected by the Electoral College. This choice often, but not always, coincides with the will of the people (see Bush vs Gore and others).

The mechanisms to curtail the popular passion have been put in place by the founding fathers to avoid corruption of statesmen by their acting to please the public, rather than remain calmly concerned with state affairs.

Read the first sentence of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

Seabee said...

Boxster are you still on about the US not being a democracy?

It's going off at a tangent a long way off the point of my post, which was reporting a court case in the US and commenting that it confirmed that everyone, bloggers included, are subject to existing laws.

However, as you still seem to insist that the US is not a democracy, read Webster's definition: Government exercised either directly by the people or through elected representatives.

Or, if you're from the US call your elected representative and ask the question. Or call the nearest US embassy and ask them.

Anonymous said...

Mr Murdoch's rag is the New York Post. The Daily News is Mort Zuckerman's rag.

Seabee said...

True, Anon@3.03, thanks for the correction. There's a strong rumour that Murdoch will buy the News this year and I got the two mixed up.

As you say, they're both rags anyway.