Author Patricia Cornwell knows the boons and banes of success, enjoying multi-million book advances and battling lawsuits and stalkers. The Boston Globe has an article today about her troubles with Leslie R. Sachs who, since 2000, “has been filling websites with a relentless stream of vitriolic accusations against Cornwell . . .” I won’t repeat Sachs’s paranoid accusations, which The Globe article recounts. My interest is in Cornwell’s defamation suit against Sachs, specifically in the federal court order she obtained this week that requires Sachs to remove his attacks from the Internet. Enforcing this order reminds me of playing with the blobs of mercury my dentist gave me as a child (it was a more innocent age–I don’t think it was a plot to poison me): you push down in one spot and the blobs squish apart and reform elsewhere. Cornwell’s Boston counsel, Joan Lukey, has developed a smart strategy to address this problem. Rather than provoke the knee-jerk Internet response of spreading Sachs’s rants in response to what some would perceive as court-ordered censorship, Lukey is sowing an information campaign to dilute them:
Lukey intends to take [the court’s] order to Internet service providers and search engines, and ask them to put up a link, so a search that turns up Sachs’s allegations will automatically lead to the court order that found them to be false, rather than try to get them to remove Sachs’s pages from the search results. Already a Google search using “Patricia Cornwell” turns up news stories and blog comments reflecting her side of the battle.
I just performed a Google search for “Patricia Cornwell.” As of this writing Wikipedia, the second result, is the sole hit in the top ten to mention Cornwell’s libel suit against Sachs. (Sachs has tried to rewrite Cornwell’s Wikipedia biography only to be have his revisions undone.) References to Cornwell’s defamation suit show up among the next ten links. No doubt Cornwell would like higher search placement but the court order has only been in effect since yesterday. I’ll compare the results in a few days.