Commentary

Model's Case Shows 'Streisand Effect'

Model Liskula Cohen went to court this week to unmask the blogger behind the site Skanks in NYC because she feared the site was harming her reputation and ability to score endorsement deals.  

The blog itself is devoted to smearing Cohen. Its five posts attack her as a "skank," "old hag," and the like. While it's debatable whether those posts are libelous -- as opposed to expressions of opinion -- they're certainly mean-spirited. The blog also arguably is a form of cyberbullying, which is increasingly viewed as a problem in its own right.

Clearly, Cohen has cause to wish the site would vanish before any other potential clients view it. Unfortunately for her, filing a lawsuit is probably the worst strategy for accomplishing that.

After the New York Daily Newswrote about the lawsuit, blogs like Gawker and Gothamist, as well as mainstream media outlets, followed suit, generating a storm of publicity. By Tuesday afternoon, the model's name had risen to the top of Google Trends, according to Cnet.

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Those events shouldn't be surprising to industry watchers who have seen the "Streisand Effect" in action before. Attempts to harness the legal system to get offensive material removed have often backfired, as the court proceedings themselves generate far more interest in the dispute than if everyone had kept silent.

In her legal papers, Cohen is asking a judge to order Google to reveal the identity of the blogger behind the site. In New York, bloggers are entitled to anonymity unless courts find reason to believe the bloggers have libeled someone. This means that a court won't order the blogger unmasked unless it first finds that the posts allege facts about Cohen, as opposed to opinions.

Technically speaking, the cyberbullying aspect of the posts might be irrelevant to that determination. But surely the judge will be aware that cyberbullying has resulted in tragedy on at least one well-publicized occasion -- the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier, who killed herself after receiving hurtful messages on MySpace. Given the backlash against cyberbullying as a result of that case, it wouldn't be surprising if the judge in this case orders Google to disclose the blogger's identity regardless of whether Cohen will actually be able to prove she was defamed.

6 comments about "Model's Case Shows 'Streisand Effect'".
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  1. Amy Gretz from Coventry, January 7, 2009 at 4:48 p.m.

    No one knew Ms. Cohen's name a few hours ago, and now everyone's heard of her - negative effect? I think not! Even if elements of the blog ARE true, the writer certainly didn't go about expressing himself / herself in a professional, credible way. Ms. Cohen has effectively become a victim of someone with a dirty mouth, and frankly, I think that makes her MORE marketable. Wish I had a perfume or whitening gum to sell - I'd hire her right now!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 7, 2009 at 4:58 p.m.

    You set this one up, didn't you? She's a model. She has a platform. She wants her name in print and let people get to know her especially how she can show her goodness (if this is the case). She is fighting back and that is in vogue as well. Your audience may not know you that well, but we know you would want to do the same to keep your integrity in tact. "Support is us."

  3. Scott Curtis from Studeo, January 7, 2009 at 5:13 p.m.

    Amy's got it. Surprised the article didn't mention the positive affect this will have on her personal brand. It's not every day you get to the top of google trends. She's apparently 'in' (vogue?!). Couldn't resist.

  4. liskula gentile cohen, January 27, 2009 at 3:45 a.m.

    After reading both of your articles regarding this case I have going on with Google, let me say, that a) it is nice to see a web site that is going to write about the facts and the truth of the matter, and b) you are the only web site I have commented on.
    Just so everyone can understand this clearly. I had no idea that any of this was news worthy, or that the media would jump all over it as they have. I simply wanted to find out if the man that had attacked me back in 2007 had been the one responsible for this silly blog. I did not intend to sue Google for financial damages, as I believe they are simply a conduit for malicious nonsense like this. It has never been my intention to fight the right to free speech, just simply identify those who use the internet to harm others.
    As for me wanting this in the press and for it being as one commenter stated "in Vogue", all I can really say to all that is...I am a model, it is my job, not my lifestyle. I have no desire for fame, and never have. For a model to demand good paying day rates, she or he must do high end fashion magazines, and covers of magazines. It is one of the steps, to making a good living in my field. But, it comes with many strings as I am sure you have all understood. Fame is not for me and never has been, every time I had a magazine cover come out, I would leave the country in which it was published. I have never sought out any media recognition, and have run from it for the past 17 years.
    People like to assume, and to judge. To scrutinize and point fingers. Its sad. People had not heard of me as a model, because I chose to direct my career like that. I just wanted to do what I do best, to live my life and be happy. I hope this blogger can do the same in his or her life, as far as I can see he or she is clearly not very happy. Seems so silly to me that someone would even waste their precious time on this earth with this type of nonsense...
    Anyway... thanks for being honest, it has not gone unnoticed...
    Liskula..

  5. liskula gentile cohen, January 27, 2009 at 3:45 a.m.

    After reading both of your articles regarding this case I have going on with Google, let me say, that a) it is nice to see a web site that is going to write about the facts and the truth of the matter, and b) you are the only web site I have commented on.
    Just so everyone can understand this clearly. I had no idea that any of this was news worthy, or that the media would jump all over it as they have. I simply wanted to find out if the man that had attacked me back in 2007 had been the one responsible for this silly blog. I did not intend to sue Google for financial damages, as I believe they are simply a conduit for malicious nonsense like this. It has never been my intention to fight the right to free speech, just simply identify those who use the internet to harm others.
    As for me wanting this in the press and for it being as one commenter stated "in Vogue", all I can really say to all that is...I am a model, it is my job, not my lifestyle. I have no desire for fame, and never have. For a model to demand good paying day rates, she or he must do high end fashion magazines, and covers of magazines. It is one of the steps, to making a good living in my field. But, it comes with many strings as I am sure you have all understood. Fame is not for me and never has been, every time I had a magazine cover come out, I would leave the country in which it was published. I have never sought out any media recognition, and have run from it for the past 17 years.
    People like to assume, and to judge. To scrutinize and point fingers. Its sad. People had not heard of me as a model, because I chose to direct my career like that. I just wanted to do what I do best, to live my life and be happy. I hope this blogger can do the same in his or her life, as far as I can see he or she is clearly not very happy. Seems so silly to me that someone would even waste their precious time on this earth with this type of nonsense...
    Anyway... thanks for being honest, it has not gone unnoticed...
    Liskula..

  6. liskula gentile cohen, January 27, 2009 at 3:45 a.m.

    After reading both of your articles regarding this case I have going on with Google, let me say, that a) it is nice to see a web site that is going to write about the facts and the truth of the matter, and b) you are the only web site I have commented on.
    Just so everyone can understand this clearly. I had no idea that any of this was news worthy, or that the media would jump all over it as they have. I simply wanted to find out if the man that had attacked me back in 2007 had been the one responsible for this silly blog. I did not intend to sue Google for financial damages, as I believe they are simply a conduit for malicious nonsense like this. It has never been my intention to fight the right to free speech, just simply identify those who use the internet to harm others.
    As for me wanting this in the press and for it being as one commenter stated "in Vogue", all I can really say to all that is...I am a model, it is my job, not my lifestyle. I have no desire for fame, and never have. For a model to demand good paying day rates, she or he must do high end fashion magazines, and covers of magazines. It is one of the steps, to making a good living in my field. But, it comes with many strings as I am sure you have all understood. Fame is not for me and never has been, every time I had a magazine cover come out, I would leave the country in which it was published. I have never sought out any media recognition, and have run from it for the past 17 years.
    People like to assume, and to judge. To scrutinize and point fingers. Its sad. People had not heard of me as a model, because I chose to direct my career like that. I just wanted to do what I do best, to live my life and be happy. I hope this blogger can do the same in his or her life, as far as I can see he or she is clearly not very happy. Seems so silly to me that someone would even waste their precious time on this earth with this type of nonsense...
    Anyway... thanks for being honest, it has not gone unnoticed...
    Liskula..

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