A business consultant wants a court to force YouTube and owner Google to unmask a cyber cipher who posted what she says are unauthorized videos of her and online comments that hurt her reputation.
Carla Franklin, a former model and actress turned businesswoman, said in a legal petition filed Monday that she believes a Google user or users impugned her sexual mores in comments made under pseudonyms on a Columbia Business School website. Franklin says someone also posted unauthorized YouTube clips of her appearing in a small-budget independent movie.
Google said in a statement that it doesn't discuss individual cases to protect users' privacy, but it follows applicable laws.
The postings caused Franklin "personal humiliation" and hurt her professional prospects as she was job-hunting after graduating from the Ivy League business school in 2009, her legal papers say.
The video clips were innocuous but unauthorized, and she found it creepy that someone had unearthed the film and posted pieces in an apparent effort to make her uncomfortable, her lawyer, David M. Fish, said Tuesday.
"People feel bolder and bolder that they can say whatever they want when they post things with anonymity, but there can be consequences" if you say something defamatory, Fish told The New York Post. "If you're going to post something about somebody, you need to stand by it."
According to the legal petition, Franklin graduated from Duke University in 1999 with degrees in biology and psychology. She spent five years working as a part-time actor and model, and attended Columbia Business School, graduating last year.
Fish told the Post that his client has a "fairly good idea who was doing this," but "we want to make 100 percent sure before we file suit."
Anonymity is a cherished and staunchly defended refuge for many Internet users. But a growing number of people and businesses have tried to force blogs, websites and other online entities to disclose who's trashing them, and some have succeeded.
In one case that grabbed headlines, Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen successfully sued Google in a state court in Manhattan last year to get the name of a blogger who had published comments about Cohen's hygiene and sexual habits.
Cohen argued that the comments on the site were defamatory. The blogger, ultimately identified by court order as Rosemary Port, said her privacy was violated, and she had a right to her opinions.
Franklin's petition, also filed in state court in Manhattan, cites the Cohen case and argues that Franklin, too, was defamed by postings that "called into question her chastity."
Google's statement noted that the online giant scrutinizes all court orders for compliance with "both the letter and the spirit of the law" and can object or ask to have such orders narrowed.
msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.