A former model who sued Google to reveal the identity of nasty YouTube commenters has won. Truly, the anonymous Internet is dead when you can't even call someone a 'whore' in YouTube comments without being outed.
Carla Franklin, a former model and Columbia Business School grad, sued Google this summer and demanded the company reveal the identity of three YouTube commenters—"JoeBoomo8," "jimmyJeanoo8," and "greyspector09"—who were saying "malicious and untrue" things about her: They called her a "whore," and posted unauthorized video clips from an independent film Franklin acted in.
Franklin's lawyer told the Post, "If you're going to post something about somebody, you need to stand by it." A judge agreed, and has given Google 15 days to turn over the names, addresses and phone numbers of the commenters. Presumably, Franklin will use that information to sue under defamation laws which apply to the Internet just as to "real life."
Did Google roll over, as it did in the case of the anonymous Blogger user who was unmasked by a Manhattan Vogue model for calling her a "skank"? Unclear. (Maybe they'll appeal the decision?) But sitting here at our bile-coated keyboard, we can't help but think that a small, stinky star has winked out of the Internet constellation.
Suing YouTube commenters for being mean? You might as well sue a dog for barking and lifting its leg to pee. According to our back-of-the-envelope calculation, someone is called a "whore" on YouTube once every .03 seconds. If this becomes a thing after Franklin's victory we're going to need more lawyers.
Update: As always, things are a bit more complicated than they appear. Franklin has released a statement through the advocacy group FreeSpeechv3.org. She says her case is about an ongoing battle with a cyberstalker, not an attempt to stifle free speech:
I have been dealing with ongoing obsessive and harassing behavior since 2006. Despite ignoring phone calls, e-mails, changing my number, trying to be nice, and hoping that the obsessive behavior would stop, the behavior continued over a four-year period. Last year, things escalated online. An anonymous YouTube account was created to make a YouTube channel or "shrine" dedicated to me, using video clips of me talking to a friend. The personal information that was included and the obsessive, "shrine-like" nature of this You-Tube channel scared me. Several weeks after the YouTube "shrine" was removed, another anonymous YouTube account was created and used to comment on video clips of me created by Columbia Business School. The comment left on the clips was "whore."
I am asking Google, Inc. for information about the person who is harassing me online because I believe it is equally as dangerous as the harassment that has occurred in person, and if I pursue legal remedies I don't want anonymous online activities to be excluded from this person's damaging pattern of behavior.