Columbia grad sues Google to unmask malicious poster

A growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs and web sites to disclose who's trashing them.
A growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs and web sites to disclose who's trashing them.

A business consultant wants a court to force YouTube and its owner, Google Inc., to reveal the identity of someone who posted what she says are unauthorized videos of her and online comments that hurt her reputation to a Columbia Business School web site while she was attending the school.

Carla Franklin, a former model and actress turned MBA, said in a legal petition filed Aug. 16 that she believes a Google user or users impugned her sexual mores in comments made under pseudonyms on a Columbia Business School web site.

Franklin says someone also posted unauthorized YouTube clips of her appearing in a small-budget independent movie.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google said in a statement that it doesn’t discuss individual cases to protect users’ privacy, but it follows applicable laws.

The postings caused Franklin “personal humiliation” and hurt her professional prospects as she was job-hunting after graduating from the Ivy League business school in 2009, her legal papers say.

The video clips were innocuous but unauthorized, and she found it creepy that someone had unearthed the film and posted pieces in an apparent effort to make her uncomfortable, said her lawyer, David M. Fish.

Anonymity is a cherished and staunchly defended refuge for many internet users. But a growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs, web sites, and other online entities to disclose who’s trashing them, and some have succeeded.

In one case that grabbed headlines, Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen successfully sued Google in a state court in Manhattan last year to get the name of a blogger who had published comments about Cohen’s hygiene and sexual habits.

Cohen argued that the comments on the site were defamatory. The blogger, ultimately identified by court order as Rosemary Port, said her privacy was violated, and she had a right to her opinions.

Franklin’s petition, also filed in state court in Manhattan, cites the Cohen case and argues that Franklin, too, was defamed by postings that “called into question her chastity.”

Google’s statement noted that the online giant scrutinizes all court orders for compliance with “both the letter and the spirit of the law” and can object or ask to have such orders narrowed.

“We have a track record of advocating on behalf of our users,” the company said.

Franklin believes she knows who posted the material about her but wants to be certain before publicly naming names, her lawyer said.

Her petition doesn’t involve Columbia; the school isn’t believed to have the identity information she wants, Fish said. A spokeswoman for the school didn’t immediately return an after-hours telephone message left by the Associated Press on Aug. 17.

Now working for a consulting firm that advises nonprofit organizations, Franklin “really just wants this exposed, done, so that whoever’s doing it will never do it again,” Fish said. “She really doesn’t want any of this negative stuff following her.”

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