Remember when mom said not to worry when people call you names, it's the sticks and stones you need to watch out for?
Well, it turns out mom was wrong. Again. In this case, though, it's the name-callers who are in danger of getting stoned (no, not in that way).
[ Cringely points to more signs of changes on the Internet, courtesy of AT&T and 4chan | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
Yesterday a U.S. federal judge ruled that Google must turn over the name of an anonymous blogger who took a severe disliking to aging supermodel Liskula Cohen. The ripples emanating from the ruling could potentially wash over every member of the blogosphere (including those who delight in anonymously depositing nasty comments on blogs -- you know who you are).
The backstory: In August 2008, some soon-to-not-be-anonymous blogger (STNBAB) created a Google blog called "Skanks in NYC" (no longer available, but archived at Mahalo). The sole topic of this short-lived blog: Liskula Cohen, a zygomatically gifted Canuck who has graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, and other magazines probably not in the bathrooms of most InfoWorld readers.
Among other things, the STNBAB called Cohen "a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank." He (she?) also called Cohen "an old hag." I bet that's the one that really stung.
(Note: This blog takes no position whatsoever on the relative skankiness of any supermodel, Cohen or otherwise. I'm sure they're all just sweet-natured gals at heart. Also: 100 percent virgins. But I digress.)
Cohen's attorneys sent a nastygram to the blogger, who immediately removed "Skanks in NYC" from Blogger.com. But it didn't end there. Last January Cohen sued Google, demanding it reveal the blogger's identity. Yesterday, the court ruled that Google had to hand over the only information it had: the blogger's IP and e-mail addresses.
So it looks like STNBAB is about to be sued for defamation, libel, and anything else Liskanka -- err, Liskula's attorneys can dig up. Bad news for him/her, but potentially worse news for the rest of us. Because if anonymous speech on the Internet is no longer anonymous, some people will simply stop speaking.