Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A beautiful comeuppance

A model who was slammed with derogatory terms by an anonymous blogger has the right to learn the identity of her online heckler, a judge ruled.

In August 2008, a user of, Google's blogging service, created "Skanks in NYC," a site that assailed Liskula Cohen, 37, a Canadian-born onetime cover girl who has appeared in Vogue and other fashion magazines. The blog featured photos of Cohen captioned with terms including "psychotic," "ho," and "skank."

On Monday, New York Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden ruled that Google must hand over to Cohen any identifying information it possesses about the blog's creator.
--Jason Kessler for CNN

It's no secret that I detest cowardly little worms who hide behind anonymous masks on the Internet in order to spew racism and vitriol. To list all the insults and defamatory comments I've fielded would be too depressing and I don't want to spoil this: it feels me with glee to know that the candy-asses behind all that hate have a reason to be nervous today.

Yoo-hoo? Are you out there my darlings?

You really didn't believe for a minute that Blogger (or Facebook or Twitter or whomever) wouldn't throw you under the bus at the first mention of libel, now did you? And before you go getting all liberal on me with the Free Speech speech, you're free to say anything you want, but welcome to the world of accountability, babies. It's one thing to tear apart someone else who's anonymous, but maybe you ought to be a little more careful when you defecate all over someone else's real identity from now on.

In the meantime, you can kiss my plump rosy ass.

Love, Erin


(S)wine said...

thumbs up on this.

Tony Rugare said...

I'm convinced! Will use my full name from now on.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks, Alex.

Tony, I don't think you've typed one word of hate your whole life. And you've never been anonymous. Why, everyone knows the Great Tony Rugare!

Erin O'Brien said...

And oh yeah, the other thing that delights me to no end is that no one is cheering this ruling louder than Sarah Palin! She's so sue-happy, this will keep her busy for years!


Dishonorable Schoolboy, aka Craig Hughes said...

I agree with you as well Erin. I have disagreed with many posts,some yours but many others, and voiced a strong (or comedic) dissent. But to the best of recollection always identified myself if not already known. The funny part is this is such a low level of cowardice. I'm glad this judicial decision went this way.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks Craig, you are always welcome here, as are your dissenting opinions.

Wayne said...

I read your blogs all the time but never sure you weren't just looking for the right story so you can show your butt!!!

I agree, you can say what you will, but be accountable!!!

Thanks for an entertaining blog...

Anonymous said...

Erin I think you are the coolest chick around!

Anonymous said...

Show off!

Randy "The Glazed Ham Man" Johnson.

Sean Craven said...

I let people post anonymously to my site, but I have had a few of those, "Say it to my face, motherfucker," moments. I'm trying to look at them as opportunities to thicken my skin and grow up a little, but I'll tell you what.

I'd love to know where those people live.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks for dropping in Wayne.

Hi Anon and Randy.

Like I say in one of the embedded links, Sean, it's not anonymity that bothers me, but when people use it to hurl hatred, racism and untruthful smears, that drives me up a wall.

Shanerology said...

Racism and vitriol should be outed by Google, no doubt about it. However, calling someone a ho, a skank or even a psychotic isn't really grounds for getting the legal system involved.

It's kind of like when a woman that dresses like a whore is raped and the rapist uses the defense of "she was askin' fer it!" You disagree with his excuse for the crime, but you kinda see where he's going with it.

No one should hide behind spineless subterfuge when stressing their opinion. If you haven't the courage to signature your opinion then you haven't an opinion: you're just a repeater of someone elses opinion that you probably don't even truly comprehend; or a Rush Limbaugh frequenter.

Erin O'Brien said...

All good points Shane, and I agree it seems like a thin case, although I haven't seen the site. I wonder if it contained nudity.

Here's why I understand her point: She's a model. Her image is her livelihood. If she is depicted on a damaging site over which she has no control and a prospective employer sees it and decides not to hire her, those are real damages.

Put yourself in this position: You wake up one day and find a site featuring your real name and a picture. Maybe it says that you've stolen money or you gave someone VD or you attend KKK meetings or you're a liar. Whatever--maybe it just calls you names, or says you're "psychotic" (as was the case with Cohen).

Along comes a prospective boss and googles your name. He sees the site and crosses you off the list. Who wants to hire a psychotic? You might want to sue someone to.

I guess what I'm saying is, when it's YOUR real name and face, you feel differently about it.

Rodger Jacobs said...

One has to have a license to operate a motor vehicle but anyone can jump onto the internet, unfettered and free to post any anonymous and slanderous tripe they want.

This is not a freedom of speech issue, Erin, as you point out and I hope the ACLU stays seated and keeps their fucking mouths shut on this one. In our criminal justice code, one has the right to know their accuser; the same principle should apply on the web. If some asshat wants to talk smack about me, that's fine and dandy. But I want to know your name and your address so I can serve papers on your foolish ass.

It's high time we lose the sociological framework that says the internet is nothing but one gigantic bathroom wall. I've been using my real name on the web for 10 years, which means I am accountable for each and every thing I say. It's not that difficult and it does make you think carefully before leaving a comment or writing a post.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Roger.

I guess when you write professionally, somewhere along the line, a boss has scared you straight about libel. If you write it, it better be true.

In the Cohen example, the names are one thing, but I'll bet that case is teetering on surrounding images/content and the word "psychotic."

As for the claim "reader beware," even if he/she is, it still negatively impacts his/her perception of the person being defamed.

Leslie Morgan said...

I caught up with this one late, but it pushes all my buttons. I'm going to go "mom" here. I taught my kid, and she caught on young, that you have to own your own stuff. You have that lovely privilege of saying anything in the world you think . . . as long as you're responsible for it. Cowards who ambush people brave enough to walk in the light of day are just *small*.

Glass Houses said...

Shane - I think your rapist metaphor might be just a tad off.

Try this on for size - it's like when a woman wears a very low cut blouse and then yells at you for staring at her chest.

Regardless of how a woman is dressed, I can't "kinda see" where he thought no meant yes.

philbilly said...

I called the ACLU once when my civil liberties were being abridged, they never called back.


I ultimately solved my problem with Amendment #2, dontchyaknow.

The Constitution is a warm and fuzzy thing.

Velociman said...

My dearest Erin,

Thank you for your comment at Velociworld, and please rest assured there is nothing "off-topic" at my site, as that would imply that my natterings convey some sense of topicality or coherence in the first place.

as to you rinsistence on continuing to flog this spavined old nag of an issue, I do not believe usage of a nom de plume automatically denotes anonymity. My first three months of archived posts are of course in my own name, my name is on my book in the sidebar, and I can be contacted at as well as the velociman email address.

To the Mark Twains and George Eliots and Richard Bachmanns of the world: I salute you!

Your lugubrious and faithful servant, etc&etc,


Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Limes and GH. Thanks for stopping in.

Phil, glad you're back.

Actually, Mr. Crawford, I haven't counted you among the anonymous in some time. And--although it's always marvelous to see you--I mostly extended the invitation for the benefit of your esteemed readership.

Mr. L said...

Hmmm...I thought *I* was the 'lugubrious' one around here!!! Not sure what I think about this issue, but I have often wondered about the people who use "anonymous" as an excuse to behave in a manner they most likely wouldn't in person.

Erin O'Brien said...

Well, Mr. L, I'm not sure who's the lugie around here, but at least you got my point, it's not about anonymity or pen names, it's about faceless bullies and slanderers.

Erin O'Brien said...

Everyone can be judge for his/herself: here's a clip of Cohen on GMA with Diane Sawyer.

Anonymous said...

I knew what a skanky ho was right off but I had to look lugubrious up. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

adjective: looking or sounding sad and dismal.


lugubriously adverb

lugubriousness noun

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin lugubris (from lugere ‘mourn’ ) + -ous .

lugubrious hymns | their lugubrious aunt was too melancholy for her own good.

mournful, gloomy, sad, unhappy, doleful, glum, melancholy, woeful, miserable, woebegone, forlorn, somber, solemn, serious, sorrowful, morose, dour, cheerless, joyless, dismal; funereal, sepulchral; informal down in/at the mouth; literary dolorous, glum. antonym cheerful


Erin O'Brien said...

Don't feel bad, RJ, I had to look up "spavined." It means: Erin O'Brien is a luminary with big tits.

Rodger Jacobs said...

Yes, Erin, I was scared straight about libel in my high school journalism class way back in the dark ages of 1974 when journalists were expected to be mindful of such quaint notions.

Joe said...

I guess I am a nameless coward. I do not think I spread hate like those morons, but there are reasons I post under a fake name. Of course instead of Hoosierboy I could be John Jones, or Joe O'Brien or Sam Smithers. The point being a first and last name on the website does not mean the author gains respectanbility. Lack of one does not autmatically make the writer a Rush fan. There are plenty of kooks on both sides of the aisle.

No one knows with whom they are communicating on the internet. That is why sex offendersw get caught all the time when the 13 year-old girl they think is falling for them is really a 46 year-old cop.

Sorry shanerology (I am sure that is not your real name) anonymous political dessent has long been a part of our political fabric. Would you maintain the Federalsist Papers are invalid, and "no opinion at all"?

Should we ignore the 12 comments to this post, since they could be attributed to anonymous, or lacking a full name?

Erin O'Brien said...

Hoose: It's not about anonymity, it's about when someone uses anonymity to slander or commit libel.

Slander/libel is wrong no matter who does it. And I'm very glad to see that judges are finally stepping up and saying, NO you cannot wrongfully smear a real person on a public venue and remain anonymous.

If your real name and image was made public with a bevy of absolutely false claims, would you be all right with that? Would you just shrug your shoulders and say "oh well" ?

And this post has nothing to do with party affiliation or politics.

Kirk said...

I use my real name, but it has nothing to do with moral courage.

I just happen to be a raving egomaniac.

sevnetus said...

I think that in this day and age there are good reasons to stay anonymous, ESPECIALLY if one is vitriolic. Your friend, X.

Joe said...

Erin I was refering to one of your previous commenters who made just such a claim.

And yes slander and libel are wrong. I am not defending that.

Unknown said...

Erin... I like your blog... I thank you for understanding my point. And just so everyone that reads this knows, the name calling was not what was considered defamatory or libel in my case. Their were no nude images, but there was a few outright lie's about who I am, and that is what was defamatory. Of course the media could not print it, because they would in fact be defaming me further.

Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting, Liskula.