There is rampant abuse and insults on the Internet. Anyone can get abused at any time, without his or her fault. There is a chance that it might happen to you too. If it happens, are you aware of your rights if someone tries to malign your reputation online? Can you get the company to give the real identity of the perpetrator so you can sue him or her for defamation?All of these questions and more were answered in The 2009 Liskula Cohen versus Google “skank” decision, where Google was forced to reveal the identity of someone who defamed a model on a skanks in nyc blog. In january 2009, an anonymous blogger had called Liskula Cohen ‘skanky’. If you look up ‘what is a skank’ on any search engine, you will find that it is a defamatory insult. Liskula Cohen is a fashuon model based in New York City who has been on the covers of fashion magazines including Vogue and Cleo. If you look up ‘Liskula Cohen Vogue’, you will find images of her face on the cover of Vogue Magazine. The ruling definitely was landmark in its own way but there is still a lot of misinformation about that case and this piece has been put together to desmystify those myths. Let’s get started.
- No End of online anonymity :-The case didn’t end anonymous online speech as is erronenously belived by some people. Since the judgement was delivered by a lower-court judge in New York, it didn’t have any power over courts outside of the state of New York. The ruling is limited and can be overturned by appellate courts in New York itself. Further, there is very less likelihood that the US Supreme court will ever outlaw anonymous blogging in America. Even if the supreme court hypothetically does outlaw anonymous blogging, people can still remain anonymous on cyberspace through different ways. The only reason Rosemary Port’s identity was revealed is because she used her email address while setting up the blog. This case got a lot of publicity but didn’t quite set any legal precedent as is erroneously believed.
- Google wasn’t liable :- It is again wrongly assumed that Google legally owed Liskula Cohen or Rosemary Port anything. Google was only included as a defendant in the lawsuit and often Google was ordered to reveal the blogger’s email address, Google had nothing further to do with the case. Rosemary Port didn’t file a suite against Google and even if she had file, chances were that she would have most probably lost her case. It is because during signing up for the Blogspot service, Port had agreed with the company’s Terms of Service. Neither Liskula Cohen or Rosemary Port had any ground for suing google for defamation. Rosemary Port said she would be suing Google for $15 million for failing to protect her privacy, but the google court case privacy couldn’t proceed further becasue she never filed any papers.
- The judge didn’t trample on the First Amendment :- As opposed to the myth surrounding this case, the judge didn’t trample on the first amendment when he delivered the judgment. Since Google is a private company, there was no angle of government censorship in the entire case. Individuals are guaranteed the right out the indentity of someone who is defaming them. Since it was a personal matter, the judge very rightly ruled that the model had the right to find out who was attacking her.
- The Supreme Court didn’t decide the case :- The Supreme court of the United States didn’t decide the case. The case was decided by the Supreme court of Manhattan. On the surface it might look impressive, but on deeper scrutiny one finds that the Supreme Court in question is the state’s least important case. Further, things get more confusing because each judge in the Supreme Court of New York is called “Justice”, something which is reserved for members of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court of Manhattan is merely a trial court and is not even the most important court in New York!
- The blogger wasn’t guilty of defamation :- In the case Google was just ordered to reveal the identity of the blogger. There was no case of defamation and no one was charged with the same. The court only ruled that another court could have ruled it was defamation. These type of cases have become very common with the rise of the Internet and it’s growing impact on our lives. Google needed to reveal the blogger’s identity for the defamation case to go forward. It is another thing that Cohen later dropped her $3 million defamation lawsuit against Rosemary Port.
This case lead to a good debate in public domain over limits of free speech, the right to privacy and ways to protect one’s reputation online. As we conduct more and more of our lives online , it is imperative that we know and make full use of resources at our disposal to fight this slanderous and defamatory menace, that can ruin anyone’s image. Individuals can hire online reputation management services to manage their reputations online. There are many services promising effective reputation management for individuals and you can avail the same. Such services are available across the entirety of the internet, and there is every chance that you be able to find reputation management for individuals services that not only fit your budget but also suits all of your requirements.