Can a person talk trash about someone else on YouTube by posting vulgar and insulting remarks about them anonymously? Carla Franklin, former model and Duke biology and psychology major, as well as Columbia business school graduate, has asked a court to force Google to disclose the identity of an online commentator who called her a "whore" on YouTube.
Franklin had recently appeared on YouTube videos posted by Columbia Business School that documented her travels to Africa and featured her offering advice to future MBA students. Franklin filed an application for disclosure with the New York Supreme Court.
Carla Franklin's attorney, David Fish, says that people should not be able to hide behind online anonymity when their remarks approach the level of being malicious and untrue. "People hide behind these shields and think they can just post anything ... Hopefully, we can put a stop to this ... This obviously was very upsetting to her," Fish said, the New York Daily News reports.
Franklin has filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. As to whether it will be successful, a case from last year suggests that it will. Liskula Cohen used the same strategy in her case, after being slammed as a "skank," and "old hag." Google unmasked Cohen's rival, who made the comments. The strategy has also worked for other people who have had others post hateful videos about them online.
This is an area of law that is evolving. Carla Franklin wants to know the identity of the individual who called her a "whore," so that she can sue her cyberbully for defamation. Defamation is a false statement that makes a factual claim which may give a person or organization a negative image.
1/13/11 Editor's note: We have updated this post to clarify that Carla Franklin, who is not a model, asked a New York court to compel Google's disclosure of the individual who posted derogatory online comments about her.