United States:Google at the center of online free speech debate

Google is at the center of online free speech debate once again. The search engine giant is being sued by blogger Rosemary Port after they released her identity following a court order.

Port criticized former model Lasuka Cohen in her blog-often using harsh words. A Manhattan Supreme Court Judge ordered Google to out the blogger after Cohen filed lawsuit against Port claiming libel.

At Examiner.com, technology blogger Tanya Gupta expresses concerns over the developments and questions weather the blogger's first amendment rights were violated.

“But the judgement by the court to require Google to reveal the IP address of the blog, in other words reveal the identity of the blogger raises some fundamental first amendment issues as it relates to the internet. The internet medium is quite different from the print medium, in that it allows more people to participate in the generation of news, and for the most part, the reading public is responsible for sorting out the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, and make its own determination of what is good and what is bad. This is unlike the print media where a certain level of quality is guaranteed. To allow the medium to work according to its nature, therefore, you have to allow all sorts of participants in the news generation process. Censorship restricts not just the evil bloggers but the medium itself.”

A blogger's right to anonymity and what is defined as “online decorum” is also a part of this debate. Chris Gaylord at the Christian Science Monitor says that the lawsuit “dispels the Web’s oldest tradition: anonymity” and that

“Disguised in comforting anonymity, bloggers and online commenters can type some pretty nasty things – accusations and language that they’d never say to people face-to-face. However, the masquerade ball may have just ended.

Ms. Cohen brought Google to court, demanding that the company reveal the identity of a blogger that she says defamed her. The NYC-gossip blogger mocked Cohen and called the model a “40-something” who “may have been hot 10 years ago.” Cohen was 36 at the time. The post, which ran on Google’s Blogger service, has since been removed.”

But Zennie Abraham who blogs at SFGate.com brings in an interesting look into this debate by mentioning a provision in the Violence Against Women Act which may put Rosemary Port's assertion that her free speech rights were violated into question.

Here is his commentary on this issue at YouTube.

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