It’s impossible to blame Daniel Szalkiewicz for doing what was in his client’s best interests. And from the description, what happened to his Jane Doe sounds horrible.
A 27-year-old Bronx woman sued the blogging site in Manhattan Supreme Court last week after a tape of her having sex with her boyfriend 10 years ago, when she was just 17, was posted in December and shared 1,200 times.
The post included the woman’s name and a link to her Facebook page.
She only learned that the private X-rated video was on the site when strange men started contacting her through Facebook with obscene messages such as, “Did you like the way his c–k felt? Sure looks like you did.”
Nice, guy. This is why you spend your time on Tumblr, because lines like this don’t endear you to actual living women. But as Julia Marsh at the New York Post explains, she didn’t take it lying down.
A victim of online “revenge porn” will get her own chance at retribution — going after more than 500 Tumblr viewers who got their kicks watching the non-consensual video.
The first-of-its-kind ruling, handed down by a Manhattan judge Wednesday, ordered the social networking platform to disclose the personal information of the hundreds of people who have shared the sex video — which featured the victim when she was an underage teenager — so she can sue the users over the privacy breach.
“I’m directing Tumblr to disclose to petitioner all the account registration information concerning each individual account that re-blogged the images and videos that are at issue here,” said Manhattan Supreme Court Justice David Cohen.
Szalkiewicz went after Tumblr to compel the disclosure of the identities of viewers. Not the person who uploaded the video, but the people who watched it. And Justice Cohen granted the application. On what basis?
Szalkiewicz said Tumblr hasn’t taken the matter seriously.
“Tumblr’s office is 1.5 miles away and they haven’t even bothered to show up today,” he said in court.
That’s right, Tumblr was sued, presumably served, and its response was the big shrug. It didn’t bother to respond. It didn’t show up. Justice Cohen granted the motion on default, so if you happen to be one of those 500 viewers who watched the video, and whose identity has now been ordered disclosed, it’s not as if anybody lifted a finger to oppose the motion. Tumblr doesn’t care about you any more than it cares about Jane Doe.
Beyond those involved in this bit of botchery, is there any significance to this order? Out trot the “experts” to seize the moment.
Experts say the ruling could have far-reaching privacy implications.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this before,” said Darius Maxwell Fisher, head of the reputation management firm Status Labs. “This could be the first of many issues like this where your anonymity is stripped from you.”
Does this mean he’s never seen a default judgment, or he’s never seen an internet company like Tumblr completely ignore efforts to reveal the identities of its users? And, not to get too uppity, but by what stretch of reason does a guy at a reputation management biz enjoy the characterization of “expert”? It’s not like he’s a lawyer.
On the other hand, what does a lawyer have to say?
Reps for Tumblr did not return messages seeking comment, but Ohio attorney Aaron Minc, who specializes in internet law, said the company will likely appeal the order.
“It seems really overbroad. If I were Tumblr I might object to it just on the basis that producing all that information within five days for 500 people seems a bit burdensome and unreasonable,” Minc said.
But he added that the merits of the ruling would probably survive an appeal.
“Are the identities of people who re-blog this stuff relevant? I would say yes,” Minc concluded.
If you’re asking the same question as any knowledgeable lawyer, then who the hell is Aaron Minc and why would he say anything so idiotic? His website, Defamation Removal Law, explains a lot.
Aaron Minc is a nationally recognized leader in the specialized area of Internet defamation. His work is on the technological forefront of removing damaging content from the Internet, combating cyber-attacks, and uncovering identities of anonymous Internet users. Aaron has developed a cost-effective cutting edge legal solutions for his clients’ most pressing and damaging online problems. He is the go-to attorney in his industry or “fixer” for the most malicious and hard to solve internet defamation crises.
He’s a “fixer,” which should clear up any doubts about his expertise. Then again, where’s the “cause” organization’s assessment of the efficacy of this default order, the other “go-to” defender of online privacy?
Courts in the Netherlands and Japan have issued similar rulings in the past. In the US, federal courts routinely sign off on orders unmasking users accused of copyright violations, according to Alan Butler, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Did EPIC Senior Counsel Butler* really say that federal courts “routinely” allow “unmasking” orders? And what do rulings from the Netherlands and Japan have to do with anything, anyway?
This default judgment is of no precedential value, by definition, and it’s from a New York State court, such that it would be inapplicable to any other state or federal court. New York already has a test for the disclosure of anon users, but it would require Tumblr to appear in court, oppose disclosure and make its case.
Tumblr couldn’t be bothered. It’s going to suck to be one of the 500 disclosed, though few will cry sad tears for the misery it may cause you given the misery the video caused Jane Doe. Still, this isn’t the law, and shouldn’t have happened. At least not this way.
Blame Tumblr, for both its hypocrisy toward keeping its own home clean as well as protecting the identity of its users. And if you watched the vid to get your rocks off, your hands are unclean as well.
*Butler is senior counsel to EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is dedicated to pretending to protect women from “revenge porn” rather than protecting the privacy of internet users, like the EFF.
H/T Jim Tyre