A blogger known for criticizing politicians in Northeast Miami-Dade is suing a website hosting company — for allowing someone to create an anonymous page dedicated to bashing her.
Stephanie Kienzle filed a lawsuit late Monday against Fabulous.com, which hosted a page created by unknown critics in her name. Kienzle, who runs the website votersopinion.com, was once named "Gadfly of the Year" by the Miami New Times for her persistent columns about what she sees as corrupt politicians in North Miami and North Miami Beach.
The libel lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade circuit court claims the anonymous website is an "outrageous attempt to destroy the reputation and family of a citizen because she has the courage to take on powerful special interest and stand for the truth against corruptions."
"The perpetrators of these disgraceful acts are cowards who hide behind pseudonyms and fake names because they do not have the courage to show their faces," her lawyer, Michael Pizzi, wrote in the lawsuit.
The site, StephanieKienzle.com, purported that "the time has come to tell the truth about her — her lies, her cover-ups and her crimes." It even mocked Kienzle's lawyer for sending a cease-and-desist letter. "NO ONE WANTS TO BE STEPHANIE KIENZLE," the website wrote on Monday, before the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit names Fabulous.com and the unidentified people behind the website, identified only as John and Jane Does.
Kienzel has been a frequent critic of elected leadership, most recently filing ethics complaints against a North Miami Beach councilman who flew to Monte Carlo for a trip on a wealthy artist's dime, breaking the story of a councilman removed from office for failing to attend meetings and uncovering illegal bus bench ads by a former North Miami mayor.
But she's also rubbed people the wrong way. Started this month, the website asks for dirt on Kienzle and promises "upcoming fun ... picking apart her lies and her own baggage piece by piece."
A lawyer for Fabulous.com could not immediately be reached for comment.
Such libel suits are not easy to win.
Federal law generally protects third parties — whether it's media companies or web hosting services — from content posted by users, said David Greene, the civil liberties director at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is not uncommon for lawsuits to be filed against web companies in an attempt to use subpoenas to ferret out the identity of anonymous commentators, Green said.
"That's a tactic that's fairly common," Green said.
Pizzi, her lawyer, said the lawsuit absolutely will try and learn the identities of those behind the website. Somebody with the website even filed a public-records request to North Miami "pretending to be her," he said.
"Stephanie puts her name behind her blogs. Everyone knows who she is," Pizzi said. "These people are a bunch of gutless cowards who have stolen her identity."