Judge Joan Madden said in court she wouldn't unmask the blogger until he or she had been served with papers and given an opportunity to object. Madden ordered Google to email the blog creator with the court papers by Wednesday.
Cohen filed papers earlier this month asking that Google be ordered to identify the blogger behind Skanks in NYC, on the theory that the blog was defamatory. The entire blog contains five posts from last August condemning the 36-year-old model as an "old hag," "skank," and the like.
Google took no position on whether the blog defamed Cohen and, this morning, a lawyer for the search giant made clear that the company wouldn't object if Madden ordered it to reveal the blogger's identity.
The judge, to her credit, hesitated to rule that the statements were enough to support a defamation lawsuit. "I'm not comfortable signing this," she told the lawyers in an off-the-record bench conference.
Madden was right to delay the matter, given that it's unclear whether the statements on the blog were libelous. Statements must be factual to be defamatory. Here, there's at least an argument to be made that they were opinion.
The case also shows that companies like Google will only go so far to preserve users' privacy. While Google won't just turn over information without a court order, it's not about to fight bloggers' battles for them.