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August 25, 2009
Outed Blogger to Sue Google for $15M
This is a bit of an update on the soap opera that outed the anonymous blogger who had allegedly defamed model Liskula Cohen by calling her a "skank" on her blog, hosted by Google. Cohen got a judge to order Google to turn over the identity of the blogger. It turns out to be one Rosemary Port and an acquaintance of Cohen. There seems to be some background where the two may have sparred in the past over an ex-boyfriend. Then Cohen, after getting the order, one assumes in good faith, decided not to sue Port after all. Bad blood all around, no? That would be the end of it, at least until the movie of the week comes out, except that Port is royally mad at Google for divulging her identity. Port intends to sue Google for $15 million dollars for violating their fiduciary duty to her to protect her privacy.
Let me see. Google initially turned down the request for informal disclosure. Google's terms of service say they will turn over identity with a valid court order. Google was faced with a valid, legal court order. I remember when the government fought for Google user data to do a study potentially to uphold the Child Online Protection Act, the judge modified the request and Google turned over data. Port is a private individual in a dispute with another private individual. Should Google have fought this case to the end of the line? I don't remember the terms of service suggesting that Google act as an attorney for the aggrieved. If anything, Google could have informed Port of the order and Port could have intervened to quash it. It has happened in other cases though I'm not aware if Port was given that opportunity in this case. I'm not sure if it even matters in this case. I suspect that Google was not willing to establish a precedent that it had to fight to the bitter end on behalf of one of its hosted blogs. Bloggers can be a feisty bunch and providing them free legal services does not enhance the bottom line. I think the same attitude goes for any hosting service.
One analysis of the legal relationships is by Richard Korman at ZDNET. He says, and I agree:
That strikes me as nonsensical concept: the fiduciary relationship is the highest, most stringent duty one can have to another, typically the directors duty to shareholders, or a trustee’s duty to beneficiaries. To create such a relationship between a company and someone who creates a free blogging account makes a mockery of the relationship. And what is the duty to protect anonymity? That is definitely not listed in the treatises’ lists of fiduciary duties.
His full post is here
August 25, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink
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Exemptions to most agreements between parties are upon order of the court and for highest interest of justice and equity. In this case, an order of the court made Google divulge the identity of the blogger.
Posted by: Bloggerpal | Aug 25, 2009 5:13:27 PM
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