Everything online journalists need to protect their legal rights. This free resource culls from all Reporters Committee resources and includes exclusive content on digital media law issues.
A blogger lost his bid to keep his identity secret after a judge in New York City ruled that a fashion model had established a legitimate defamation claim against the blogger.
Establishing a legitimate underlying claim is necessary under New York rules of discovery before a subpoena to reveal an anonymous speaker will be enforced, according to the court.
The blogger had created a site called "Skanks in NYC," and had featured model Liskula Cohen in several postings. One posting labelled her a "psychotic, lying, whoring ... skank."
The blogger had argued that the comments should be understood as opinion and hyperbole, and thus not stating anything factual that could be the subject of a libel claim.
But Judge Joan Madden disagreed. The use of the words as captions to "sexually provocative" photographs of the model reinforce the sexual overtones of the words, Madden held, and thus "the words 'skank,' 'skanky' and 'ho' carry a negative implication of sexual promiscuity, and as such are reasonably susceptible of a defamatory connotation and are actionable."
Because Cohen had established the basis for a libel suit, the judge ordered Google, which had hosted the blog through its blogger.com site, to reveal the identity of the blogger.