Judge Says Blogger Who Called Model A Skank Should Be Unmasked

from the anonymity? dept

US courts have generally been pretty good at protecting the anonymity of online speech from forced exposure -- in fact, as we're posting this story, we've come across yet another ruling protecting anonymous speech online. However, every so often a judge goes in the other direction. Earlier this year, we wrote about a case involving a model, Liskula Cohen, who was so upset about a blog that had a grand total of four posts insulting her, that she filed a lawsuit to uncover the anonymous blogger, claiming that it was defamatory to call her a "skank." Of course, most of us would never have heard of the blog, its posts, Liskula Cohen or that anyone thought she was a "skank" until this lawsuit was filed. But that's another issue for another day.

However, CitMediaLaw alerts us to the news that the judge in the case has ruled that calling Liskula Cohen a "skank" is potentially defamatory, and not just an opinion or an everyday insult, and thus the blogger should be unmasked:
But Madden found that use of the terms "skank," "skanky," "ho" and "whoring" defamed Cohen because they appeared in captions near photos of the model in provocative poses. "Under these circumstances," Madden wrote, the words combined with the suggestive photos "carry a negative implication of sexual promiscuity."

Madden also rejected the blogger's contention that the words were vague insults. "In the context of this specific blog, such words cannot be reasonably viewed as comparable in meaning and usage to the word 'jerk' or any other loose and vague insult," Madden held.
While certainly not the most high brow of insults, it's difficult to think that anyone reading the blog posts in question would take from it that it is somehow factual that Cohen was actually sexually promiscuous. I would imagine that the very small number of people who actually saw the site would conclude, accurately, that some unknown, anonymous blogger didn't like Cohen very much and posted a very small number of silly blog posts about her. And then they'd get on with their lives. Hopefully, the still (for now) anonymous blogger decides to appeal. Yes, the speech may have been nasty and obnoxious. But that doesn't warrant the gov't and Cohen forcing the blogger to be revealed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Really?

    What a skanky thing for Judge Joan Madden to do.

     

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  2.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Truth shall set you free.

    Now she gets to prove she's not a skank, right? That should be fun. What's the legal definition of "skank"?

    Side question: You can call someone an attention whore, but can you call them an attention skank?

     

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  3.  
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    weneedhelp, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    Well does she appear to be...

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Re: Truth shall set you free.

    "What's the legal definition of "skank"?"

    And in the context of models, is it defamatory?

    Judges, OTOH...

     

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  5.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: Well does she appear to be...

    Not to mention, I'm sure the required amount of skankiness to get oneself called a skank is different from area to area.

     

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  6.  
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    Clark Cox (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    That judge is a skank

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Sigh

    "Judge Says Blogger Who Called Model A Skank Should Be Unmasked"

    First, masks are for pansies. Helmets are where it's at.

    Secondly, I seem to remeber a magical time my father, Papa Helmet, described to me occasionally. In this far gone time, if someone insulted you, your choices were thus:

    1. Ignore them, particularly if they're just being a lying asshole.
    2. Stick up for yourself and fight back.

    Where did we get this idea that the United States court system was our personal grieving tool? Some kind of ultra-innefficient soap box? Seriously, civil suits in this country are completely out of control. Free speech aside, this broad is a thin-skinned intellectual and emotional weakling that would have been naturally unselected long ago if it weren't for our overprotectionist society.

    Here's to hoping the blogger appeals after finding online picture upon online picture of the girl acting in promiscuity, thereby getting the photos in the public record and hopefully into the nat'l archives.

    Idiots.

     

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  8.  
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    Shawn (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:45am

    oh how I long for the olden days when it was really easy to Google bomb things so the first Google result for Liskula Cohen would be 'Liskula Cohen is a skank'

     

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  9.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re: Sigh

    Be careful with that word "asshole". If "skank", with no hard definition, is now defamation, it's not long until "asshole" is as well. [/sarcasm]

    Always love your comments Dark Helmet.

     

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  10.  
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    known coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    i don't know

    she looks hot, I would do her. How much does she cost?

     

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  11.  
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    Adam (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Wow, I'd imagine that girl has some serious insecurity issues. I mean, just try to picture that thought process: "Some anonymous person called me a skank. Skanks are bad. People might read that and think I'm a skank. That's defamation, I can sue!!"

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Wow... wow... I don't think the courts understand AT ALL what can of worms they plan on opening by entertaining this lawsuit for more than 10 seconds.

    "He said mean words about me, sue him! *wah wah*" Great, so instead of people randomly threatening to report another person to an administrator in online chat room, forums, games, blogs, news sites, etc they are going to threaten to sue for defamation.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Interestingly, this site points out that although the media is focusing on the "skank" comment, the lawsuit is really about other, less nebulous remarks: "psychotic," "liar," that sort of thing.

    It still sounds like a very, very misguided lawsuit, but less frivolous than if it were just because someone called her a skank.

     

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    Another AC, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    In a related story...

    the judge also ruled that everyone who "Boos" at a sporting event must introduce themselves after the game.

    Skanky is as skanky does. That's what momma always says.

    P.S. Another great post Helmet Boy.

     

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  15.  
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    weneedhelp, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: i don't know

    "How much does she cost?"

    Free. She is a skank, not a prostitute.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    While I disagree completely that a mere insult such as "shank" could be considered defamatory, that ruling is completely ridiculous, I don't understand why anyone thinks they have some sort of right to anonymity for publicly made statements.

    Anonymity is a lot like privacy. If you want privacy, don't go out in public. If you want to retain your anonymity, don't make public statements. To put it another way, once you put yourself out into the public sphere, any "right" of privacy or to anonymity disappears.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    "I don't understand why anyone thinks they have some sort of right to anonymity for publicly made statements."

    Fine, what's your first and last name.

     

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  18.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re:

    I see what your saying and it douse put this in a different light. But, "psychotic" can be defended because she definitely is not, it was obviously said in jest. "Whore" is just like "skank" and isn't vary well defined.

    Now "liar" may have a real case, but isn't she a liar anyways? All that makeup making her look like someone completely different, isn't she lying about who she really is? Aren't we all? Without more description on what the user meant with "liar", it's too vague to stand.

     

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    weneedhelp, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    read this again

    But Madden found that use of the terms "skank," "skanky," "ho" and "whoring" defamed Cohen because they appeared in captions near photos of the model in provocative poses.

    "appeared in captions near photos of the model in provocative poses"

    "provocative poses"

    Skank!!!!
    Case closed.

    Dont want to be called a skank? Dont let yourself be seen, possibly drunk, with your ass in the air on a table at what appears to be a crappy basement club, and that's all I am willing to risk doing searches at work.

     

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  20.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    Mmmm, I kinda agree with you Ima, but if the forum that was used allows for 'Anonymous' posting, then there is (or used to be) a reasonable assumption that a user will remain anonymous regardless of 'skanky' comments.

    A better argument might be that there actually is no such thing as 'Anonymous', especially as it relates to the Internet.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    I wonder if Sarah Palin went to college. If not, she's probably living out her rebellious college years.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    In order for it to be considered defamatory the plaintiff should have to prove that the defendant KNEW their statement was false and willfully lied knowing better.

    How is an anonymous person supposed to anonymously appeal?

    The judge should also consider context, it should be clear by the context of the statement that the defendant didn't mean what s/he said literally.

    In all seriousness this ruling is unacceptable and should be resisted. Furthermore, the judge should be replaced by another judge and be banned from being a judge (or from any other position of public authority) for a year.

     

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  23.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: i don't know

    "Free. She is a skank, not a prostitute."

    Well, you might have dig up ten or fifteen beers or an 8ball, but otherwise...

    *GASP*, now some guy named Dark Helmet is telling people I'm a COKEHEAD!!!! Whatever will I do?

    *As a side note, I would agree to attend any such lawsuit with zero resistance....if they allowed me to attend all proceedings in a full Dark Helmet outfit...

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Re:

    Ooops! I saw the words "Skank Model" and immediately thought the article was about someone else.

     

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  25.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    That's kind of like saying I can't wear my Dark Helmet helmet out of the house. That isn't true. I can go out in public and mask myself as I see fit.

    Same concept....

     

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  26.  
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    HolaJohnny (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Oh great... now we are all accessories to this

    Had to get us involved. No I didn't comment on her but I hang around on here with you guys. Momma always said be careful what friends you keep... Oh who am I kidding I was thinking a lot of much more negative comments and connotations when I viewed the picture. Thank god thinking them is still legal. Right? Or is that the next case?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:15am

    I guess the standard 'IMO' should precede any remark for skank/asshole/pyscho/democrat just so it clearly a statement of opinion.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    "But Madden found that..." - I have found the link!! This is just guerrilla marketing tactics to sell more Madden NFL 2010.

     

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  29.  
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    Me, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    Yeah, it's not an opinion when someone is a shitbag republican.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward (the only real one), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:20am

    If he has the guts to call her a skank, he should have the guts to prove it.

    If he can't prove it, he is in trouble.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Well does she appear to be...

    Well I gotta admit if I saw some woman doing this in a bar I would first think 'Skank' then next think 'I wonder if should will do me?'

     

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  32.  
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    weneedhelp, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: By me

    Repugs, democRAT. I love when Dems hate Repugs, and vice-versa. What a foolish position. Both are parts of the same coin. Neither party represents the people anymore. BOTH parties worship the almighty dollar, and can be bought and sold like the disgusting prostitutes they are. America has long been bought and paid for. As the late great Carlin said:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

     

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  33.  
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    known coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: By me

    Are you calling republican's and democrat's "Skanks" ?! I think john madden wants to see you.

     

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  34.  
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    Forge, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re:

    My name is Rich Mingin and I endorse this skank-calling.

     

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  35.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:50am

    Re:

    Before he can prove it, maybe someone should define it?

     

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  36.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Sigh

    Where did we get this idea that the United States court system was our personal grieving tool?

    When someone realized that there are no financial downsides to suing someone.

    Change that, and it will go away.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Sigh

    Your dad is a skank.

     

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  38.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Sigh

    "Your dad is a skank."

    Hell yeah he is.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re:

    I'd help him prove it. I just need some provisions. Anyone got a couple of fourtys and some roofies?

     

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  40.  
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    Ben, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Lisa Cohen's skankiness..

    So, does this mean that the whole thing about the NY Knicks, the knee-pads and the pop bottle was a lie?

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    some people don't think

    My guess is she has not thought this through and will drop it once she does. In order to defend the "skank" comment, defense will probably be permitted to do discovery on her sexual history. What has she done, with who, and how many times and all of that. Of course any tid bits that come to light will get a lot more press than a few blog postings.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Re:

    YES MR. IMA FISH
    What is your real name? and address? and phone number?

    You made a public comment so let's find out who you really are!

    Ahhh, thinking twice??

     

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  43.  
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    yozoo, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    should be fun

    watching them try to define exactly what "skank" means

     

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  44.  
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    NullOp, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    Kidding, right?

    Words carry a negative connotation! How bout the pictures themselves? Dress and pose like pose like a "Ho" then someone, somewhere might call you a "Ho!"

     

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  45.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Really?

    Skanky is as skanky does.

     

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  46.  
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    Shawn (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

     

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  47.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Well does she appear to be...

    With humility and regret - me too.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Anonymous testimony?

    The standard of evidence for a civil suit like defamation is merely more likely than not. I agree it seems unlikely to me to be factual, but I don't think it's so unlikely the case should be thrown out. Maybe a good balance would be to let the suit go forward but allow the blogger to testify anonymously.

     

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  49.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Definition of Skank

    According to the Princeton WordNet Search ():

    skanky - Adjective
    * S: (adj) disgusting, disgustful, distasteful, foul, loathly, loathsome, repellent, repellant, repelling, revolting, skanky, wicked, yucky (highly offensive; arousing aversion or disgust) "a disgusting smell"; "distasteful language"; "a loathsome disease"; "the idea of eating meat is repellent to me"; "revolting food"; "a wicked stench"

    skank - Noun
    * S: (n) filth, crud, skank (any substance considered disgustingly foul or unpleasant)
    * S: (n) skank (a rhythmic dance to reggae music performed by bending forward and extending the hands while bending the knees)

    skank - Verb
    * S: (v) skank (dance the skank)

    I would assume the person making the comment was using the term skank to express that Liskula Cohen's behavior or another atttribute is arousing aversion or disgust in the person. I do not think that this is libelous, just accurate. I believe the entire modeling industry to be very skanky.

     

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  50.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Definition of Skank

    I also find, by that definition, myself to often be a skank, particularly after nights of heavy drinking...

     

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  51.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

    Prove She's a Skank

    She's probably more the coke and Cristal champagne type. Rent a Ferrari, wear an Armani suit, and spend a butt load of money on her at a high end club, and then invite her back to your penthouse for "coffee" and see what happens.

     

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  52.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Lisa Cohen's skankiness..

    I was drunk. Oh, you mean her...

     

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  53.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Definition of Skank

    That's one reason I stopped. Drinking that is, I'm still a skank at heart.

     

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    HolaJohnny (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Maybe this is a good publicity tool

    You too can become famous my Techdirt commenting brethren. And I think we all have the best skills to provide that to each other. First one of us takes a provocative picture in someplace public. Then we as peers post that picture and call you a skank. "Skank" picture = ??? = Profit!

     

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  55.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Maybe this is a good publicity tool

    Can I be wearing nothing but my helmet?

     

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  56.  
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    HolaJohnny (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Yes...

    As long as your wearing a additional dark helmet for well... your schwartz. I don't want to see that... though maybe I could just talk Mike into taking the picture. In that case go for it!

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Re: some people don't think

    Nope, you have it wrong.

    Defence has to prove based on the knowledge the used to write the article that she is a skank. They would have to show that they know she is a skank. They cannot go on a fishing expedition on her sex life to try to show her as a skank.

    Otherwise I would call every celeb in the book skanks, and then use all the discovery to write million seller books.

     

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  58.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Definition of Skank

    The Mac OED includes:

    derogatory: a promiscuous woman. - 'the office skank.'

    So that definition is out there pretty firmly.

     

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  59.  
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    David (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:52pm

    Typo

    I meant skunk!

     

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  60.  
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    Rekrul, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    So, anyone have any nude shots of this skank? All I could find is one photo showing a single breast. Pretty disappointing actually...

     

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  61.  
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    Cyanid Pontifex (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:35pm

    How is this any different that the case of Hustler v. Falwell? A disreputable source (in this case, one without an audience nearly as large as that of Hustlers) makes ridiculous statements about a celebrity. Since Ms. Cohen is a Public Figure, a higher standard must be used for defamation cases against her. An anonymous, not particularly credible, individual posted something untrue about a Public Figure. The chance of showing "actual malice" are fairly slim to none. This judge is wrong, and if the appeals court has even the semblance of justness, it will side with the anonymous coward.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    It has just occurred to me that we are all assuming she is embarrassed by the name calling and will regret the publicity. Its quite conceivable that she is overjoyed by this opportunity as it gives her a chance to get her name into the press. Before long many people (in particular modelling agencies etc) will have forgotten the story but the name will still sound familiar. I expect she will benefit from this even if the defamation case is thrown out.

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: some people don't think

    The burden of proof is on the plaintiff not the defendant.

     

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  64.  
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    Pete Austin, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    It's about the following false comments, not the word "skank"

    "She's a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank."

    "She may have been hot 10 years ago, but is it really attractive to watch this old hag straddle dudes in a nightclub or lounge?"

    http://tbm.thebigmoney.com/blogs/feeling-lucky/2009/03/11/obscenities-fly-during-skank-h earing?page=0,1

     

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  65.  
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    Kip, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Clearly a publicity stunt

    What's this, a model no one has ever heard of files a lawsuit that, once it hits the news, will cause people to search the internet for revealing photos of her? Seems like a pretty clear publicity stunt by the model.

     

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  66.  
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    Chris R, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    who's the skank here?

    I happen to agree with the judges decision. Too many people are hiding behind anonymity as an excuse to be very cruel.

    It kind of reminds me of my ex. She was so sweet and nice in person, but when you get her behind the wheel of a car, she became the biggest ©unt you're likely to meet.

    It would seem that peoples true nature come out behind the mask of anonymity.

     

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  67.  
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    Ronk, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    I love skanks

    if someone called me a skank I would take it as a compliment. It would certainly take the wind out of that asshole bloggers comments.

    BTW, asshole is a compliment too.

     

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

  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re: who's the skank here?

    Anyone saying anonymity is bad needs to post their full name and where they live (since names are not unique) unless they just want to by hypocrites

     

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

  69.  
    identicon
    mithrandir9x, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Sigh

    @Dark Helmet-True that! Whatever happened to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

    Gotta answer this question for you, though. (Where did we get this idea that the United States court system was our personal grieving tool?)

    It's all in the name of protecting the children. Waa, somebody hurt my feelings. Waa, somebody looked at me wrong. Waa, that's not fair! There's this mythical idea of childhood in this country that has no connection to reality.

    The great and powerful "IS" put this lovely mechanism into the universe we call "natural selection." If you can make it through that, well, then you deserve to be an adult.

    We (The societal we.) coddle to the point of narcissism and then can't figure out why our kids are so rude/stupid/weak/whatever as adults.

     

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

  70.  
    identicon
    Chrystal K., Aug 19th, 2009 @ 1:56pm

    I wonder if this person actually knows the model. That would be pretty awkward for them.

     

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

  71.  
    icon
    another mike (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Sigh

    When I was growing up, you solved insults with a throwdown at recess. In earlier days it was drawn pistols at ten paces. If this is the future I almost miss the good old days.

     

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

  72.  
    identicon
    5th wheel lock, Aug 20th, 2009 @ 12:55am

    There should be a standard of morality to every word written or spoken in public. Google should have policies regarding this.

     

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

  73.  
    identicon
    Sezer, Aug 20th, 2009 @ 5:22am

    That's setting a scary precedent for all bloggers.

     

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

  74.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 21st, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    "There should be a standard of morality to every word written or spoken in public. Google should have policies regarding this."

    I am impressed with the purity of your trollitude....

     

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

  75.  
    identicon
    merchant loans, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:35am

    Such comments are totally uncalled for and it was improper so the identity of the person in question should be revealed to end speculations.

     

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


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