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An orthodox Jewish rabbi, who was the subject of disparaging comments on a blog site, has won a High Court ruling forcing Google to divulge the identities of those who blackened his name.

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Rabbi Chaim Halpern, leader of Divrei Chaim Synagogue in Bridge Lane, Temple Fortune, says he has been defamed by a blogger who goes under the pseudonym “Ifyoutickleus” and several others who posted comments on the Google-hosted blog.

Mrs Justice Gloster, sitting at London’s High Court on Friday (February 8), ruled that Rabbi Halpern “had been identified as the subject matter” of the blog which made allegations about his private life.

The judge ordered that Google hand over the identities of those who made the comments to the rabbi’s lawyers.

The rabbi’s barrister, Chloe Strong, told the judge that Google had remained neutral in relation to the application for the identities to be revealed.

She said: “Where a person, or in this case an organisation, albeit innocently and without incurring any personal liability, becomes involved in a wrongful act of another, that person thereby comes under a duty to assist the person injured by the acts by giving the claimant any information by virtue of which he is able to disclose the identity of that wrongdoer.”

Allowing the application, the judge ordered Google to “disclose the registered name, address or IP address in their possession in respect of the blogger Ifyoutickleus”.

The judge also ordered Google to disclose the details of individuals “who made comments about the rabbi” on the blog.

Laying down a marker as to the future stance of the English courts, the judge said: “I take the view that if people are making what appear to be defamatory comments, they should not be protected by the cloak of anonymity.

“Though of course the protection of freedom of speech is very important, people who make weasely comments online in circumstances such as this should not be allowed to hide behind the shield of anonymity.”

Google Inc were not represented in court and did not resist the rabbi’s application.

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