The New York Daily News reports that Liskula Cohen brought a lawsuit against Google seeking to discover the identity of a blogger who called her a "skank" and an "old hag". With gory details of the blog entitled "Skanks in NYC", the New York Post laid out the online broadside levelled at Cohen, "I would have to say the first-place award for 'Skankiest in NYC' would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen," "Anonymous" wrote in one posting, and it just got worse from there.
Liskula Cohen's suit is more specifically directed toward Google's Blogger.com service where the offending material was posted. However, as acknowledged by Cohen's own attorney, it is typically very challenging to identify anonymous posters or bloggers who publish defamatory material. There have been numerous First Amendment cases dealing with these issues, and this particular area of law is constantly and swiftly evolving.
As almost anyone with an email or instant messaging account knows, it is common to communicate using pseudonyms. One of best qualities of the Internet is that people can speak freely and openly without revealing who they really are. However, the flip-side to that coin that sometimes people feel free to post misleading, false, and yes, even insulting material. If someone feels they've been defamed, they can seek to determine the identities of the anonymous parties.
In such cases, courts end up deciding whether the anonymous speaker's identity should be disclosed. As noted in a commentary by FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod, "because of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech ... the court normally will err on the side of protecting the identity of the speaker unless the party seeking disclosure can make a "prima facie" showing up front in the case that the speech at issue truly creates liability and that true harm and damage has ensued."