Woman Sues Google Over Dead Blogger's Allegedly Defamatory Comments

from the have-fun-with-this-one dept

We've seen all sorts of arguments by folks who felt defamed to get around Section 230 safe harbors that say a service provider isn't liable for the content created by a user -- but this is a first: a woman is suing Google, claiming that the safe harbors don't apply, because the allegedly defamatory content comes from a blogger who is now deceased, and thus she cannot go after him to get him to remove the content. Thus, she claims, her only choice is to sue Google. As Eric Goldman points out in the link above, it's not clear this is true at all. The guy's assets clearly passed on to someone -- so someone must own the rights to the blogpost, whether they know it or not. It's difficult to see how a court would find Google liable, no matter what. However, as Goldman also notes, it would seem that there would be many more effective ways to have this content disappear if it was really an issue.


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    Bobby McDoogle, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Streisand effect anyone?

    I think I used this term correctly.

     

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    Happy Gilmore, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:44pm

    Your satire would be...

    ...more funny If I didn't know Bobby McDoogle was a character on an Adam Sandler CD.

    Lame.

     

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      My Wife, The Dirty Tramp, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

      Re: Your satire would be...

      What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this forum is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

       

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    Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:01pm

    You're misrepresenting what she's suing over. She's not suing Google for damages she suffered from the alleged defamation. She specifically suing Google for a takedown injunction. The allegedly offending blog is on blogspot which is owned by Google.

    You and the author of the article claim that "The guy's assets clearly passed on to someone -- so someone must own the rights to the blogpost."

    Why is that so clear? How do you know he had assets to pass on to someone? How does the woman know to whom any assets passed?

    And you clearly know nothing about probate law, because it's not as though she can sue a random relative of the deceased and force him or her to start an estate.

    This lawsuit is appropriate. The content is on Google's servers. Goggle is the only entity that can take the content down. And because she's not suing Google for the defamation, 47 USC 230 does not apply.

     

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      ehrichweiss, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      I agree fully. She's not suing to make money but simply to get the damn blog removed. Hell, that seemed apparent when I read the summary, for chrissake.

      Someone *cough*Mike*cough* needs to check their reading comprehension, since this isn't remotely the first article I've read in the past 2 weeks with this same approach that screams of some form of agenda. I'll only read for so long before I'll consider this place irrelevant. I'm fine with some bias but casting a blind eye to the glaringly obvious facts won't fare well for you guys.

      Hint, the story about Klutz books and Evil Mad Scientist Labs a while back...you missed the *real* story so in turn you helped EMS when they were partially in the wrong themselves. How ironic.

       

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        Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:22pm

        Re: Re:

        I agree fully. She's not suing to make money but simply to get the damn blog removed. Hell, that seemed apparent when I read the summary, for chrissake.

        Nor did I ever say she was suing for money.

        Why misrepresent what I write?

        Someone *cough*Mike*cough* needs to check their reading comprehension

        I could argue the same thing, since you are arguing I said something I did not.

        casting a blind eye to the glaringly obvious facts won't fare well for you guys.

        Which fact did I ignore? I said she wanted the content taken down.

        Hint, the story about Klutz books and Evil Mad Scientist Labs a while back...you missed the *real* story so in turn you helped EMS when they were partially in the wrong themselves. How ironic.

        Um. What was the irony? I wrote the story based on the original report, which turned out to be missing some facts which were filled in in the comments. That's the point of the blog posts I write...

         

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          Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Nor did I ever say she was suing for money."

          But you certainly implied it. Look at the other comments. Based upon what you wrote, others think Google is suing for defamation and for money. They didn't get that idea from nothing. They got it from what you wrote.

          Mike, I love this site. I come here everyday. (Yes, even weekends just in case you guys change your mind and decide to do weekend updates!)

          My point (and I'm assuming ehrichweiss's point) is that there are real problem to write about. There is no reason for posts like this. Posts like this only weaken the fight you're doing because it makes you look completely one-sided.

          Maybe you didn't write this post with the intent to twist the facts to make it appear that some woman is suing Google for defamation. But as I pointed twice before, that's what the gist people are getting from your post.

          You're fighting the good fight. Keep up that fight. Not imaginary fights.

           

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            Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            But you certainly implied it. Look at the other comments

            I implied no such thing. I clearly stated otherwise.

            My point (and I'm assuming ehrichweiss's point) is that there are real problem to write about. There is no reason for posts like this. Posts like this only weaken the fight you're doing because it makes you look completely one-sided.

            I write about what I find interesting/important. This story is interesting, because it does raise certain questions.

            Eric Goldman, who wrote the original story, is an expert on Section 230, and regularly consulted about the topic... and he obviously felt it applied here as well. Do you think he made a mistake too?

             

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              Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "I clearly stated otherwise."

              So the title of your post is "Woman sues to remove allegedly defamatory content from Google's server" Because that's exactly what's happening. Nope, your title is that "Woman sues Google over... allegedly defamatory comments." Which is not what the lawsuit is about.

              "This story is interesting, because it does raise certain questions."

              I agree, if the facts would have been presented. But by implying this lawsuits is about someone suing Google over defamation, those interesting questions are ignored and the woman is being bashed for something she never did.

              "Do you think he made a mistake too?"

              Yes, as I clearly pointed out. Once again (how many times do I have to repeat this) the woman is not accusing Google of any liability. That's why 230 protects Google from. And, once again, that's not happening here.

               

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                ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 4:45pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                This is EXACTLY what I've been trying to get through Mike's thick skull.

                Techdirt is becoming irrelevant fast.

                 

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              ehrichweiss, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Eric Goldman, who wrote the original story, is an expert on Section 230, and regularly consulted about the topic... and he obviously felt it applied here as well. Do you think he made a mistake too?"

              Yes. I do.

              Here's why I think he and you are missing the point. If it were your names being defamed, you'd want the defamatory content taken down as quick as possible. So in trying to get this to happen you discover that the person doing the defaming has died. At that point, if the blogger didn't give his passwords, etc. over to his family then they're not going to be able to help in any timely manner and then it becomes far more logical to get Google to do it for you without having to involve the SLOW probate system.

              I mean, you're going to have to get Google to do it if the passwords aren't available to the family so why bother the family in such a hard time(even if their relative was a dick) if you can get the blog host to do it for you much more quickly and efficiently.

               

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                Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Here's why I think he and you are missing the point. If it were your names being defamed, you'd want the defamatory content taken down as quick as possible

                Yes, everyone wants defamatory content taken down. But the LAW pretty clearly states that it's an issue between the person defamed and the creator of the content.

                Not the service provider.

                That's why you are missing the point.

                So in trying to get this to happen you discover that the person doing the defaming has died. At that point, if the blogger didn't give his passwords, etc. over to his family then they're not going to be able to help in any timely manner and then it becomes far more logical to get Google to do it for you without having to involve the SLOW probate system.

                Logical, perhaps -- but not legally required.

                I mean, you're going to have to get Google to do it if the passwords aren't available to the family so why bother the family in such a hard time(even if their relative was a dick) if you can get the blog host to do it for you much more quickly and efficiently.

                Because IT IS NOT GOOGLE'S RESPONSIBILITY to determine whether or not it's appropriate for the content to be taken down.

                Based on what you are claiming, so long as someone CLAIMS that the content is defamatory, Google must take it down. But what if it's NOT defamatory? That's why the process is to go after the person actually responsible for the content.

                What you are saying makes no sense.

                 

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                  Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:22pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "But the LAW pretty clearly states that it's an issue between the person defamed and the creator of the content."

                  The law only states that she cannot hold Google liable for the defamation. And even you admit that she is not suing Google as being liable for the defamation. (You repeatedly said you were clear about that in your posting above!) So what's the problem here?

                  "Because IT IS NOT GOOGLE'S RESPONSIBILITY to determine whether or not it's appropriate for the content to be taken down."

                  She's not asking Google to make that determination. She's asking a court to make that determination.

                  "Based on what you are claiming, so long as someone CLAIMS that the content is defamatory, Google must take it down"

                  That's not what we're arguing at all! Certainly, if the blogger was still alive, the Judge would look at the woman's attorney and ask,

                  "Why are we bringing Google into this? You do not need this court's equitable powers to compel Google to do anything because you have the alternative and viable remedy of suing the offending blogger for defamation.

                  But in this instance there is no other blogger. Now maybe the judge in this case will want the woman's attorney to serve the papers on the blogger's heirs to ensure they do not have an interest in the injunction. And if they appear and fight it, well, Google would be out. But if no one else appears, and if the only entity that can remove the allegedly offending site is Google, then the judge can use its equitable powers and make the determination, without finding any liability on Google whatsoever. Which means that 230 would not come into play.

                  You're changing essential facts of this story to tear down an argument we're not making. Stick to these facts and to what 230 actually says and it's all clear.

                   

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                  ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "But the LAW pretty clearly states that it's an issue between the person defamed and the creator of the content."

                  THE CREATOR IS DEAD. Or did you miss that part? How do you think someone handles this if another party were to post something defamatory anonymously? They take it to Google directly since they're considered the publisher in this instance. They don't have to sue for money, just to have the content removed.

                  For heaven's sake. Are you that stuck in the mindset that you are right often enough that you now think that you're always right?

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    THE CREATOR IS DEAD.

                    So now it's between her and the creator's estate. Simple. Your argument that the usual probate legal system is too slow and should be bypassed just doesn't hold water. If it did, everyone would use it to bypass probate court.

                     

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          ehrichweiss, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:35pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Um. What was the irony? I wrote the story based on the original report, which turned out to be missing some facts which were filled in in the comments. That's the point of the blog posts I write..."

          The irony was that EMS was claiming the *entire* thing was their own but the invention itself has prior art in the 80's. On top of that, you illustrated shoddy journalism when you didn't make a correction to your article as I believe(http://techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20050608/&sid=20050608/016249) you have complained about newspapers failing to do the same. If you'll note, most everyone who read it came away with the feeling that Klutz were *entirely* at fault when that wasn't the case at all and they never saw the few comments(like mine) that stated the real facts of the case since they were being drowned by the crowds who wanted to rail against a corporation that your article painted as villains.

          If the point of your blog posts is NOT to correct your mistakes, why bother?

           

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      Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      She's not suing Google for damages she suffered from the alleged defamation. She specifically suing Google for a takedown injunction.

      I didn't misrepresent that. I quote: "the allegedly defamatory content comes from a blogger who is now deceased, and thus she cannot go after him to get him to remove the content. Thus, she claims, her only choice is to sue Google."

      I think that's pretty clear, she's suing Google to get the content removed. Where did I say she was suing for the money?

      This lawsuit is appropriate. The content is on Google's servers. Goggle is the only entity that can take the content down. And because she's not suing Google for the defamation, 47 USC 230 does not apply.

      Huh. By that reasoning, section 230 would NEVER APPLY to anything. The whole POINT of section 230 is that the content is on Company X's servers, and they shouldn't be liable.

       

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        Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

        Re: Re:

        "I didn't misrepresent that"

        You made it seem like she's suing Google for the defamation. Look at the other comments here, other people think she's suing for money based upon what you wrote. They didn't pull that idea out of nowhere. Gee, where could they have got that idea....

        "The whole POINT of section 230 is that the content is on Company X's servers, and they shouldn't be liable."

        But she's not saying or alleging anyone is liable for anything. She's only asking Google to remove the content on Google's server. Injunction relief doesn't necessary assess blame, it merely corrects whatever problem exists in a swift manner. Explain to me where any liability comes to play here?

        Furthermore, she is not alleging that Google is a "publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." She's merely stating a fact that Google is hosting it. Nor is she asking a court to find that Google is civilly liable for the alleged defamatory material.

        And the section clearly states that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any State from enforcing any State law that is consistent with this section." So she can follow a state's law for an injunction to take down the material. Once again, not to find Google liable for the material, but merely to remove it.

         

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          Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You made it seem like she's suing Google for the defamation

          I did not. I said exactly what you said: that she's suing over defamatory content to get it taken down. Please show me where I said anything else.

          ook at the other comments here, other people think she's suing for money based upon what you wrote.

          I would suggest they think that because of what YOU WROTE, claiming I said something I did not.

          But she's not saying or alleging anyone is liable for anything.

          She is saying (as are you) that it is Google's responsibility. Section 230 says otherwise.

          Explain to me where any liability comes to play here?

          It's whether or not it is Google's responsibility to remove the content.

           

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            Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "I would suggest they think that because of what YOU WROTE"

            Let me get this straight. Random Observer thinks she sued Google "only for the money" because I specifically wrote that she was not suing Google for the money? You really think that makes sense?

            "responsibility. Section 230 says otherwise."

            Once again, 230 only says you cannot hold Google liable for the content. Once again, the woman is not claiming that Google is liable for the content.

            I hate to pull this card Mike, but you're not a lawyer and in instances like this it really shows.

            "It's whether or not it is Google's responsibility to remove the content."

            Liability is a legal term. Look it up. Where's the "liability" alleged?

            Let's say that your neighbor wants to build a new house and hires a company to destroy his old house. By mistake the company comes onto your property to destroy your house.

            You could allege that they are "liable" for nuisance or trespass in your lawsuit. But you could also move for injunctive relief, which is purely state equitable relief, without alleging any liability, to stop the demolition from occurring.

            That's sort of what is happening here. There is an alleged harm to this woman. The only entity which controls it is Google. And without alleging any defamatory liability, absolutely none at all, you admit it, she's not alleging any defamatory liability at all, she's asking a court to use its equitable powers to remove it.

            Mike, I am not your enemy. I'm not against you. I'm with you in your fight. And let's not get bogged down in this BS. Please!

             

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          Luci, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Only one person has inferred it was for money, so I fail to see how anyone but you and one other person are suggesting such a thing. It would appear that either your own reading comprehension is lacking, or you like to believe that you know what others are thinking regardless what they put down?

           

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            Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "It would appear that either your own reading comprehension is lacking"

            I'll repeat what Mike wrote: "Woman sues Google over... defamatory comments." Did she sue Google over defamatory comments. Nope. She sued Google to remove the comments.

             

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              Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Woman sues Google over... defamatory comments." Did she sue Google over defamatory comments. Nope. She sued Google to remove the comments.

              The lawsuit is OVER the defamatory comments. I'm not sure how much clearer I could have made it, and I'm not sure why you insist on misrepresenting what I wrote.

               

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                Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "I'm not sure how much clearer I could have made it"

                "Woman sues Google to remove allegedly defamatory comments made by a dead guy."

                That's absolutly clear (and sort of kinda funny) because it's exactly what happened without any ambiguity.

                Maybe English is not your first language, but your statement that she's suing Google "over" defamation is ambiguous. It could mean that she suing Google for the defamation. It could it mean that she's suing Google in relation to the defamation. If you negligently crash into my car, it'd be quite reasonable for me to say, "I'm going to sue you over this accident?" To mean that I'm going to sue you because you're liable for the accident.

                 

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                  Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:32pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "I'm going to sue you over this accident?"

                  Oops, I didn't need that question mark.

                  Mike, I'm tired and am going to bed. We're arguing in circles so I see no point in continuing it any further. Keep up the good fight.

                   

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                    Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:44pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Ok, I lied. I'm going to try one more time to see if you can understand what I'm saying...

                    Mike, think about this for a second. Let's assume the blogger has no heirs and no one has any property or legal interest in the blogger's website. (That's what the woman is alleging, apparently.)

                    Are you saying, that under Section 230 that it's impossible and illegal to ever remove the alleged defamatory content? That it has to stay there forever, well, at least until Google decides to delete it.

                    What I'm talking about is the inherent equitable powers of courts. They can solve problems like this when the law doesn't over any other solution. And that's what's happening here with this woman's request for an injunction. She's trying to fix which cannot be fixed through a defamation lawsuit.

                     

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                      Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 7:34pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Are you saying, that under Section 230 that it's impossible and illegal to ever remove the alleged defamatory content? That it has to stay there forever, well, at least until Google decides to delete it.

                      As Eric laid out in his post, there are a number of alternatives that don't involve suing Google. She didn't use any of them.

                       

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                      Cap'n Jack (profile), Apr 17th, 2009 @ 10:11am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      "Are you saying, that under Section 230 that it's impossible and illegal to ever remove the alleged defamatory content? That it has to stay there forever, well, at least until Google decides to delete it."

                      ... I don't even see where he implied something that implies that.

                      What are you even saying? The article was about a woman who alleges that a blog is defamatory, but the person who made the post is dead. She can't ask him to take it down, so she's suing Google, so that Google will take it down. However, Google isn't liable for the blogger's content - someone else is, so Mike can't see how Google would be liable in court.

                      Then, he says, "if this was really an issue" (perhaps the only unlcear part in the post, because it suggests that something else is the issue - like money), there are other ways to take action, as Goldman has noted.

                      So, I have to ask, why, exactly, are you so confused?

                      "Woman sues Google to remove allegedly defamatory comments made by a dead guy."

                      Your problem is with the title? Really? Maybe English isn't [i]your[/i] first language.

                       

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                    Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:45pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Mike, I'm tired and am going to bed. We're arguing in circles so I see no point in continuing it any further. Keep up the good fight.

                    Ok. We're going to have to agree to disagree here. I stand by my assertion that I explained it clearly. You, obviously, feel differently.

                     

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                      Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      First, please read my 6:44pm comment.

                      And second, I apologize for any assertion that you intentionally skewed the story to make it more interesting. I'm not really saying there's anything wrong with that. I've been known to do it when blogging for Dvorak. (My favorite examples are here and here.)

                       

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          They didn't pull that idea out of nowhere.

          It seems to me that maybe they did. People often do things like that.

           

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        clarinette02, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re:

        Well Section 230 applies to Google not liable for content yes.
        BUT :
        Google has also an obligation to take down alleged diffamatory postings after notice.

         

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          ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ****DING DING DING DING****

          And we have a WINNER!!!

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Google has also an obligation to take down alleged diffamatory [sic] postings after notice.

          So Google has an obligation to take down any posting as soon as there is any allegation of defamation? Could you please site the law for that?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That should have been "cite" not "site".

            (damn overloaded computer. I'm often typing blind several words ahead of what is shown on the screen)

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 6:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            ****DING DING DING DING****

            There isn't one!!!

             

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    random observer, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

    She's only in it for the money

    That's all, folks - sue the deepest pockets in sight. No other explanation is possible. Pure, unbridled greed is what is at work here, and anyone who fails to see it must have just fallen off the turnip truck. She probably is one of the lamer characters on the internet lawsuit scene these days, and one can only hope she meets the same fate as her alleged defamer, and quickly at that.

     

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      Ima Fish, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

      Re: She's only in it for the money

      "That's all, folks - sue the deepest pockets in sight"

      She's not suing Google for money. Merely to remove the allegedly offending page, which is on Google's servers. You cannot always rely on the blurbs here for the underlying facts.

       

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        ehrichweiss, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:59pm

        Re: Re: She's only in it for the money

        Thing is, I completely understood why she was suing due to the blurb here. How Mike missed it, I have no idea.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    Well, what I find ironic is...the blog has been around and not updated since Dec 2006. Did she wait for dude to pas on to take a shot a lawsuit? or she just now getting around to reading it? which to seems to me, that it wasn't all that defamatory in the first place.

     

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    Horse Riding on You, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Silly

    Barbra Streisand anyone? Just read it - got a giggle. Comments are ruder than the blog.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    GenD, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 5:22pm

    There was a model who sued for an injunction for Google to remove negative remarks made about her anonymously on blogger a few months back. Don't know the outcome of that case but the blog in question was later removed. But with this woman, certain media people are copying the entire content of the dead man's blog and republishing it thereby making Google's impending removal a moot point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Ryan, Oct 6th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    I hope she wins

    I'm in the same situation!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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