Bombay HC, “Reveal thyself Blogger”

A defamation suit made the Bombay HC say, “abracadabra relief granted against Google”. Google Inc. is the owner of the popular blogging platform Blogpost. Blogpost hosted a blog by one toxicwriter (a pseudonym chosen by the blogger to mask his/her identity). The writer had allegedly written certain defamatory comments about an Indian Mining Company called Gremach.

The Bombay High Court found the postings prima facie defamatory and ordered Google to reveal toxicwriter’s identity. This is only the interim order. It is unclear as to whether the company has asked for damages against google (and whether safe harbors will come into play)! A copy of the interim order obtained from the Bombay HC Website is available here.

It seems like Google is seeking to comply with the order as not only the blog which was available at www.toxicwriter.blogspot.com but also its cache is available on Google. A few snapshots though were made available on another website. Free Speech and Privacy issues notwithstanding Google may give the identifying information of the blogger. The reason for this is its own privacy policy. It states, “[w]e have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request…”.

This case may serve as a lesson for bloggers who comment on topics in India. The privacy policy is a fiction if taken on its name. It shields subscriber privacy to the limited extent of securing the service providers interests. The signup process for a blog may make one believe that they are anonymous when the person does not give contact details. However this is not true. Most websites store various identifying data even if not provided. Notably the IP addresses which is used to post on the blog. So be careful in what you say, for economists and lawyers agree on this… free speech comes at a cost!

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