Listen up, anonymous bloggers: You don’t get to call someone a “Horsey Face,” “ho,” “skank bitch” or “#1 skanky superstar” and remain anonymous. A judge ruled Tuesday that Google must reveal the name of the creator of “Skanks in NYC,” a now defunct Web site that was hosted on its blogging platform and existed for the express purpose of publicly leveling such schoolyard insults at model Liskula Cohen.
Once the bilious blogger’s identity is revealed, the 27-year-old model can go forward as planned with a defamation lawsuit. Cohen says the “Skanks” scribe’s false portrayal of her as a “promiscuous woman who is filthy, disgusting, foul and a whore” has damaged her reputation in the modeling world (they like their “whores” clean, attractive and pure). Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden wrote in her decision: “The thrust of the blog is that [Cohen] is a sexually promiscuous woman.” In order to win her case, Cohen will have to prove that the nasty insults are false and unprivileged, as I wrote when the case broke at the start of the year. Sounds like quite the courtroom circus.
This is definitely a case to watch: Imagine what a win for Cohen could mean for all the World Wide Web’s anonymous trolls — particularly those fond of maligning women’s sexual reputations online. I am a true child of the Internet and a libertarian at heart, so I’m not all that enthused by the prospect, repugnant as these characters may be. Ultimately, the outcome will likely depend on whether the defamation case gets a judge like Madden, who made the following reality-denying declaration in her ruling: “The Internet is not a free-for-all.”