Friday, February 16, 2007

Board Member Sues Google Over Orthomom?

UPDATE: Orthomom weighs in herself.

(via Canonist) Heh:
Pamela Greenbaum, who serves on the Nassau town’s board of education, filed papers against Google over nasty comments posted about her on the Orthomom blog.
In the papers filed Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, Greenbaum said she was “horrified” to discover that she had been labeled a bigot on the Google-owned blog after voting against using public funds for what she called “private school interests.”
I'm pretty sure that Orthomom won't be getting worried anytime soon, for obvious reasons. As SIW noted, it was anonymous commenters who made the comments, and honestly - it wouldn't make a difference WHO said it. She was called "ugly", "a bigot" (for being against the Orthodox community), and accused of not wanting to protect children (for being against the screening of child abusers). The horrors.

Well, here's a letter written to Ms. Greenbaum:
Dear Ms. Greenbaum,

I read a short piece today regarding your lawsuit against Google regarding comments made about you on an individual blog. I'm sorry to inform you, since you seem to be unaware of this fact, but such is the rhetoric of politics, right or wrong, stupid or not.

But to sue Google over the anonymous comments of other individuals on an anonymous blog for making obviously hateful comments that only a small number of people may have seen? That's... well, that's just stupid. Here's a basic lesson in Blogging 101: That SiteMeter you noticed at the bottom that shows over 300,000 hits to Orthomom's blog? Guess what - they were NOT all on that one post. Orthomom has a great blog, but those 300K were accumulated over a long period of time... and just a tiny fraction were on that particular post, and some of them by [gasp] the same people repeatedly. A good estimate would be that maybe a couple of hundred people saw those comments, and almost none were influenced by them.

But do you know who DOES have a wider readership [somehow]? The NY Daily News. And now, your sad lawsuit which will be laughed out of court will be mocked by possibly tens of thousands in your area... instead of by a select few on a blog. Brilliant, Ms. Greenbaum. I'm sure those who voted you onto the school board are proud that such a forward-thinking individual is their representative.

Sincerely, Glad I Don't Live in Lawrence
Maybe the lawsuit is just Purim shtick?


  1. The real question is whether OM be able to defend herself without "coming out."

  2. Wow. This lady will never win an action for defamation. First of all, due to her position as a public official, the burden of proof to show defamation is much higher. She'll have to prove that the comments where made with a knowing falsehood OR acting with reckless disregard to truth or falsity of that statement--can't prove that. Second, in the famous case of New York Times
    v. Sullivan, the Judge actually wrote in his opinion that proving defamatory statement about a public official is a tough fault to establish, it must be a deliberate lie or something very close to it.
    Third, I think Google can rely on the single instance rule--where defamatory statement accuses plaintiff of single instance of misconduct in connection with plaintiff’s trade or profession, it is not actionable unless plaintiff can prove special harm.

  3. I think OM will not have to defend herself unless she was named as a party in the suit. The only danger is that google removes OM's blog rather than face the suit, but in doing so I imagine Google would open itself to first amendmment issues and a whirlwind of legal trouble far more damaging than Greenbaum's purim joke.
    Do you have a link to a copy of the Summons and Complaint? What lawfirm filed this on her behalf?

  4. MiI - I don't think it'll ever even get close to her.

    DG - Hmm, someone learning about this or something? :) Great sum-ups, seriously - I can't imagine a judge even listening to this.

    Chaim B - Exactly. Google has been very protective in other cases where people went after bloggers, so I don't think she has to worry.

  5. Having had to deal with issues of defamation before, I'm squarely on the side of the plaintiff. [In the hypothetical that it actually is defamation; dgesq is probably right.]

    At the moment, anyone who googles her name comes up with that defamatory comment on the blog. To her, that is simply unacceptable.

    So, who is responsible? Ultimately, OM herself, for hosting the blog. Who has more money? Google. So that's where the lawsuit is - today.

    The major problem with a defamation lawsuit is that it must inevitably popularize the defamation before removing it. At times victims feel that it is worth the cost.

  6. I think everyone should link to this story just to show Mrs. Greenbaum what the REAL power of a blog can accomplish. Funny thing is, before this morning I hardly even paid that much attention to the school board posts, but heck ya, now I am! Lol.

  7. LR - If there *were* real defamation, I might agree; but in this case, it's nothing. And again, this is a public figure. OM doesn't host the blog, Google does. OM is only the person in charge of this specific blog... and I don't think anyone can be held responsible for the defamatory comments of another on a blog. Even in comments on places like the NYTimes I doubt the Times can get sued for libelous comments.

    Chaim - Heh. :) Good idea...!

  8. Has Ms. Greenbaum heard of the first amendment? Absurd.

  9. Well, as OM mentions, if this really hurt her, she should have contacted her and asked to remove the offensive comments. But she diden't. Why? Well, its seems the green eyed monster is very hungry.

  10. I think that letter is awesome.

    She must be so frustrated being a person used to power and getting what she wants to be stuck without even the name of the person she is mad at. She can't pull any political strings and get back at her so she tried google, ha. Desperation if I ever saw it.

  11. another ironic thing is that nothing could have helped ortho's blog (and this and others) than this story.

    i think that this will turn out to be the most popular story in the jewish blog world to date.

  12. Ami - Seriously, right?

    HH - No doubt... though I really like YW's explanation.

    Yaakov W. - That's a really good point... Not knowing the face of your 'enemy' is worse than having one.

  13. I don't know about the most popular, but it's definitely an interesting one. :)

  14. Heeeeeeeey, This actually might be an awsome idea for the Purim podcast parody. (rolls hands devilishly)

  15. Untill a few hours ago, I had no idea that Ms. Pamela Greenbaum was neither ugly nor an anti-Semite.

    Nor that there was a substantial orthodox community in the Bahamas.

    Learn something new everyday.

  16. I hear that she used to live in Pepper Pike.

  17. I heard she was Jack's kindergarten teacher.

    /not really

  18. Could somebody now plant a comment containing a vicious anonymous attack on him/herself and then sue the blog that posted it? Welcome to modern times.

  19. This really isn't a new thing. A friend was sued by a national real estate firm when people began leaving comments on his site that defamed the realtor- but had nothing to do with the site.

    He was very surprised when this company's attorneys went after him for damages and he ended up taking his site down to avoid further problems. His own advised him that in the future, he should explicitly state on his site that he would delete comments at his discretion- and that he should do so whenever a situation like this arose.

  20. I heard she was Jack's kindergarten teacher.

    Nope, that was Stacey.

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