Lori Handrahan and Igor Malenko have been fighting over custody of their five-year old daughter Mila since. Last November, Handrahan turned to the internet and the court of public opinion to garner support, but her online efforts to have been met with censorship.
On November 5th Save Mila was launched at savingmila.wordpress.com/ by Handrahan with the help of a few close friends. Since then Handrahan has succeeded in drawing some attention to her custody battle (a petition linked to on her blog currently has over 1,900 electronic signatures). Igor Malenko's lawyer Michael Waxman, sent me to savethechildrenfrompain.com, which presents a conflicting account of the case.
Handrahan's online efforts are constantly impeded by censorship on Twitter, YouTube and several other websites. It is likely that Twitter labeled Handrahan's constant stream of repetitive messages as spam, while YouTube has only removed specific videos which they have deemed to be sexually innapropriate.
To me, shutting all these social media sites down is proof that he can't take my child from me based on reality, Handrahan claimed. If I'm crazy and all this information is untrue why fight it.
A close friend of Handrahan who runs the Twitter arm of Save Mila and asked to remain anonymous for her own safety until Handrahan has won custody of her daughter, described her ceaseless efforts to raise awareness on Twitter. Starting with the username @SavingMila1, she has been forced to go through one Twitter account after another as each is labeled as a spam account and shut down, she's currently up to @SavingMila20.
I have tweeted 15,000-20,000 tweets, Handrahan's friend said. More than 25 accounts and they all get shut down. There's always a very standard violation on the screen that it has been a violation of twitter rules. Either people are complaining, or they think we are spam.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and Slideshare either did not respond to requests for information regarding this censorship or stated that they do not provide specific information in these situations.
On the day that we spoke, Handrahan told me that SoundCloud, an audio file-sharing website, had suspended her account, which she had recently created to upload and share what she claims were incriminating recordings of conversations with both Igor Malenko and Mila. Her Google+ account was shut down on the basis that she didn't use her real name, which Handrahan says is untrue, and an account on Slideshare.com, where she had compiled a series of legal documents in her own defense, was also disabled.
Malenko's attorney Michael Waxman denied any involvement the censorship of Handrahan's social media campaign.
I know about as much about computers and the internet as I do about nuclear fusion, he said. We did obtain a Court Order requiring both Lori Handrahan and Igor Malenko to remove all internet sites.
He explained that the court order is necessary in order to protect Mila's privacy from pedophiles who could find her address through Handrahan's website, and to protect Mila from becoming a poster child for sexual abuse. Waxman has been working as Igor Malenko's attorney since May 2008, pro bono.
Handrahan is determined to keep fighting for custody of her daughter online. However, she has missed multiple court dates; Handrahan says she fears that she will be arrested if she appears in Maine. Despite the continued censorship of her social media campaign she hopes to bring her case to a federal grand jury.
They've been running a massive smear campaign designed to make me angry and upset but I don't have that luxury, she said. I have to focus all the energy I have on saving my daughter.
The custody battle over Mila is full of conflicting claims and repulsive allegations. The purpose of this article is not to investigate these allegations of abuse, but to discuss the role that social media websites play in the case. What is important above all else is the safety and privacy of the child at the heart of this story.
Update: Parts of this story have been removed or edited based on the requests of commenters.
Update: Handrahan's blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of the websites Terms of Service, according to Wordpress.