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Will Google Out 'Skanks' Blogger Who Burned Liksula Cohen?

Bill of Rights implications abound in case of defamatory language online.

The ball is now in Google's court. A judge this week sided with Cohen in her lawsuit against Google, ordering Google -- the owner of a site in which the comments appeared -- to give up the writer of the hatchet job on Cohen.

Cohen, a Vogue model, sued Google in January to seek the identity of the blogger who called her a "skank," a "ho" and other highly unsavory terms on "Skanks of NYC," a blog hosted by Google's Blogger.com service.

The comments, which appeared as captions underneath photos posted to the "Skanks" blog of Cohen and unidentified men in suggestive poses, began appearing in August 2008.

Cohen told ABC News and Good Morning America on Thursday that her efforts turned up the identity of the blogger -- an acquaintance. (The "Skanks of NYC" blog, incidentally, was taken down in March.)

"She's just somebody that, whenever I would go out to a restaurant, to a party in New York City, she was just that girl that was always there," Cohen said on Good Morning America. Cohen told ABC that she's forgiven the woman but plans to sue for defamation all the same.

"Why should anybody let it go?" Cohen told Good Morning America.

"It is our hope that this ruling will send a message that the Internet is not a safe haven for defamatory speech," said Cohen's attorney, Steven Wagner, in a statement.

The unidentified blogger's attorney, Anne Salisbury, told various news outlets Thursday that despite the nasty nature of the comments, the blogger is protected under free speech in the Bill of Rights.

"These words are not actionable," Salisbury said. "They were not nice, they were insulting, offensive to some. That does not mean that the law provides redress for these insults. So the defense is really, this is free speech."

The implications of Cohen's suit are many, and above all a reminder of how easy it is to be anonymous on the Internet -- but not that anonymous. A blog such as "Skanks of NYC" was in essence a public forum, easily accessed by anyone.

What do you think, readers? Should the blogger be protected? How responsible is Google in a case such as this? Leave a comment in our ChannelWeb Connect community and stoke the debate.

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