Anonymous Online Name-Callers Beware: You Might Not Be So Anonymous

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The anonymity that the Internet offers often means that it can be a pretty brutal place (trust us, we spend a lot of time here!), but the predominant attitude has usually been, “What can you do about it?”  Well, one Columbia Business School graduate is taking a different approach against an anonymous name-caller who’s labeled her a “whore.”

After a poster added the offensive label in the comments section of a YouTube video of Carla Franklin, she said she suffered from distress and mental anguish. So she filed suit in Manhattan’s Supreme Court, trying to get a court order against Google and YouTube to give up the identity of the poster. YouTube’s commenting section requires users to log in before they comment so Google, who owns YouTube, would have records of each member’s information.

“People feel bolder and bolder that they can say whatever they want when they post things with anonymity, but there can be consequences,” Franklin’s lawyer, David Fish, told the New York Post.

The case is somewhat similar to last year’s suit against Google to give up the identity of a blogger who posted photos of model Liskula Cohen on a “Skanks in NYC” blog. Google ended up revealing the identity of the blogger.

Online bullying has become an increasingly worrisome issue, especially in light of cases such as the bullying of Jessi Slaughter or the suicide of Phoebe Prince, but considering the sheer volume of anonymous content on the Internet are lawsuits really the answer? After all, though Google might give up the identity of individual bullies, there are many other places to be targeted online, such as Facebook, Twitter, and 4chan.

While it would be nice if everyone openly stood behind what they said on the Internet, somehow it’s just too hard to picture.