By Kim Zetter
An anonymous blogger unmasked by Google last week following a court order has vowed to sue the internet giant for violating her privacy.
Rosemary Port, who operated a blog called “Skanks in NYC,” was outed last week after failing in her efforts to quash a subpoena served on Google, whose Blogger service hosted Skanks.
Port’s lawyer, Salvatore Strazzullo, now plans to sue Google for $15 million for breaching its “fiduciary duty to protect her expectation of anonymity.” He told the New York Daily News that he’s prepared to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Our Founding Fathers wrote ‘The Federalist Papers’ under pseudonyms,” Strazzullo told the Daily News. “Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to speak anonymously. Shouldn’t that right extend to the new public square of the Internet?”
Port, a 29-year-old student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, launched Skanks last year. It published only five posts, all devoted to attacking model Liskula Cohen, a 37-year-old who has reportedly modeled for Australian Vogue, Georgio Armani and Versace. In the posts, Cohen was called a “psychotic, lying, whoring . . . skank” and an “old hag,” and was depicted as a desperate “fortysomething” who was past her prime.
Cohen then subpoenaed Google in an effort to unmask her critic’s identity with the aim of filing a defamation suit against the blog author once the identity was known. Google provided Port with notice of the subpoena, giving the blogger an opportunity to anonymously challenge the subpoena in court.
Cohen charged that the blog comments harmed her career and caused potential clients to question her suitability to represent their products. Port’s lawyer argued that the posts in question amounted to nothing more than vague insults on par with calling someone a “jerk.”
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden ruled that Cohen demonstrated sufficient claims for the defamation lawsuit, and ordered Google to comply with the subpoena. Madden said that the words, posted in conjunction with provocative photos of Cohen, implied that the model was “a sexually promiscuous woman,” belying that the comments were merely opinion or hyperbole.
Google complied with the order, but Port essentially asserts that Google should have defied the court to protect her First Amendment right to call Cohen a skank anonymously.
Port has blamed Cohen for any negative attention the blog might have brought her, telling the Daily News that until Cohen sued Google no one had seen the blog, and that by filing a public suit that brought attention to the matter, Cohen had “defamed herself.”
“Before her suit, there were probably two hits on my website: One from me looking at it, and one from her looking at it,” Port told the paper. “That was before it became a spectacle. I feel my right to privacy has been violated.”
The Daily News reports that the two women were acquainted through Manhattan’s fashion scene and had quarreled after Cohen badmouthed Port to her ex-boyfriend. Cohen told the paper that she has decided not to proceed with filing a $3 million defamation suit against Port and is satisfied that the blogger was identified.
Update: This post has been corrected to properly reflect the legislative history of the case and note that the discovery subpoena against Google was filed prior to a defamation suit being filed.