The Liskula Cohen case could change the way the laws of internet (and ex) defamation work.
There may be a new sheriff coming to the wild, wild web. You probably don't know about the curious case of Liskula Cohen, but you soon may.
Liskula Cohen is a model (you have seen her all up in Vogue, son). Photographs of Liskula Cohen appeared on a Google-housed blog entitled "Skanks in NYC." (There was once a video of Facebook etiquette rules insisting that you don't start hate groups, which someone obviously didn't think applied to her specific situation.) Captions of the photographs were less than flattering and used words like "whore," "psychotic," "lying," and "prestidigitator*." The five posts about Cohen allegedly made it more difficult for the model to find work—presumably modeling clothing and accessories, showing us interesting ways to wear our hair and generally making regular people feel really good about themselves. Read: Top 10 Facebook Etiquette Rules
Rather than take the abuse lying down (like a skank might), Liskula Cohen did what any American would do: sue. She insisted on knowing the identity of the anonymous attacker. Google, as part of their "Don't Be Evil" mission statement, is all about protecting identity. A court, however, felt that the defamer ought to be dragged into the light. Lawsuits may follow.
David Coursey of PC World has been following this case eagerly and believes this could lead to a kinder, gentler interweb—a place where there are consequences for things we post and write. Imagine a place where people only said and wrote things that they were willing to attribute to themselves? Sure, things would still be taken out-of-context, sure, super-nerds would still be able to hide behind proxy-servers, and, sure, it might be a little more boring when "if you can't say something nice…" becomes the web's motto, but maybe some of the drive-by fruiting will abate.
What does this mean to us? It probably means sites like DudeIWouldntDoHerWithYourCrankAndThatGuyPushing.org and PleaseDoNotDateThisLyingIll-EndowedScumbag.biz may have to rethink their policies, unless their clientele is willing to air their dirty laundry publicly and accept whatever consequences that entails. Things are about to get terribly interesting. Read: Getting Revenge On Your Ex: Is It Worth It?
Interestingly, Liskula Cohen was once intentionally hit right in the kisser with a glass bottle by doorman in New York and received dozens of stitches. It sounds like she is an unlucky lady because, if her picture is any indication, she doesn't have one of those faces that you just want to punch or slander. You know those faces that you just want to plant one right in their pie hole?
Any thoughts on the First Amendment implications?
*No one called her a "prestidigitator," it's not really a word people use these days, nor is it an insult.