A New York court has ordered Google and YouTube to disclose the identities of posters of allegedly defamatory statements and unauthorized footage of a film in which the plaintiff appeared. News headlines touting this as “The case that could end cyberbullying” may be overblown – this is not the first time that a judge ordered disclosure of identifying information.
However, most courts want to ensure that a plaintiff has stated a viable defamation claim before ordering disclosure. Here, the plaintiff – a former model and current business consultant – claimed (.pdf via PogoWasRight.org) that a YouTube comment referring to her as a “whore” defamed her by impugning her chastity. While some commentators expressed surprise that a court would find a mere insult defamatory, the Supreme Court of Illinois has held that “slut” is defamatory per se. A similar case we argued to the Seventh Circuit came down differently.
The court’s order reportedly gave Google 15 days to release the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the potential defendants. While the plaintiff has said she suspects that the YouTube commenters are cyber-stalkers, Forbes blogger Kashmir Hill notes that last year, in a suit she calls a cyber-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), another ex-model suffering from a similar slur dropped her suit after the poster’s identity was revealed.