Patterico's Pontifications

6/12/2007

Ann Althouse Says Sexual Threats and False Claims of a Venereal Disease Are “Exactly What We Always Used to Say People Had to Put Up With in a Free Country”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:19 pm

The Wall Street Journal law blog reports:

In the latest chapter of the AutoAdmit.com scandal, two female Yale Law School students have sued Anthony Ciolli, the Web site’s former “chief educational director,” and more than two dozen others who allegedly used pseudonyms and posted the students’ photos as well as defamatory and threatening remarks about them on the online law-school discussion forum….

. . . .

“It’s bringing the right to protect yourself against offensive words and images into the 21st century,” said David N. Rosen, a New Haven, Conn.-based attorney for the students and a senior research scholar in law at Yale Law to the Law Blog in an interview. “This is the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe,” he said of the postings about the women on AutoAdmit.

Cheered on by Glenn Reynolds, blogger Ann Althouse replies:

Isn’t “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe” exactly what we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country? Man, that was so 20th century!

Huh?

Look, I can respect an argument that the lawsuit against the website operator lacks merit. The law seems to me fairly well established that web site operators are not responsible for the nonsense asserted by commenters. (Were it otherwise, there’s a lot of stupid crap some of you folks write that I’d be responsible for.)

What I don’t understand is Althouse’s (and Reynolds’s) mocking the concerns of the plaintiffs, as if they were just whining over nothing. To me, these comments suggest an unfamiliarity with the actual allegations of the complaint.

Never mind the several allegedly false claims that one or more of the plaintiffs had a) received low LSAT scores; 2) bribed their way into Yale Law School; 3) had a lesbian affair with the Dean of Admissions at Yale Law School; and 4) committed sexual assault. To me, these seem defamatory (if false) — and guess what? At least one of the students had a hard time getting a summer job. Imagine that!

But as if that weren’t enough, the complaint lists several sexual threats and false claims of a sexual nature. (Warning: If you’re disturbed by strong language, read no further.)

For example, Paragraph 27 of the complaint states:

27. The message thread, entitled “Stupid Bitch to Attend Yale Law,” contains numerous threats, usually of a sexual nature, and false claims about Doe I including:

  • “i’ll force myself on her, most definitely.” (posted under the user name, “neoprag”)
  • “I think I will sodomize her. Repeatedly.” (posted by “neoprag”)
  • “just don’t FUCK her, she has herpes” (posted by “:D”)

In other posts, commenters encouraged one another to follow one of the plaintiffs and take pictures of her. One of the posters did, and then commenters made crude sexual comments about her under the picture, which was obviously posted without her consent. Typical of the comments: “i want to titty fuck her for persian new year.” (Paragraph 48.) [UPDATE: To be clear, the pictures were posted on another site, and merely linked (with crude commentary) on the AutoAdmit.com site.] [FURTHER UPDATE: Upon closer examination of the complaint, there is no specific allegation that the pictures that were linked (and posted on another site) were taken by a stalker, even though such behavior was encouraged.]

In paragraph 38 we see this:

[O]ne pseudonymous poster named “Spanky” said, “[c]learly she deserves to be raped so that her little fantasy world can be shattered by real life.” Another pseudonymous poster using the name “vlsdooder” made a similar sexual threat against Doe I, “i would like to hate-fuck [Doe I] but since people say she has herpes that might be a bad idea,” on a thread entitled “Which female YLS students would you sodomize?”

I could go on and on — but you get the idea.

Now, I’m not saying this is grounds for a lawsuit against the web site owner.

But I find it hard to believe that these threats of a sexual nature — and false claims that someone has a venereal disease — are fairly described as “exactly what we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country.”

Since when?

UPDATE: Althouse updates her post (in response to this one) to note her lack of support for defamation:

I want to see “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe” protected. That doesn’t mean I support defamation or the revelation of private facts or impersonating someone by name on a website. Those are different matters, and I don’t mean to express an opinion as to whether any torts like that are alleged in the complaint. I just want to remind people to keep our free speech bearings. We have lost our way if we’ve forgotten the importance of protecting speech that is “scummy” and “offensive” and “tripe.”

But the “sexually offensive tripe” discussed in the complaint includes sexual threats, which Althouse notably does not exclude from the universe of things that “we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country.”

UPDATE x2: Eugene Volokh has a much better take on this. I discuss his arguments in this post.

72 Responses to “Ann Althouse Says Sexual Threats and False Claims of a Venereal Disease Are “Exactly What We Always Used to Say People Had to Put Up With in a Free Country””

  1. Ann Althouse = hideous
     
     
    I’m talking about her morals of course. Typical evil leftist.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  2. “Evil”?

    Jeez. How’s about just saying you disagree with her?

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  3. Althouse’s first commentator, Revenant, says it all:

    “Didn’t the Supreme Court already establish that having your delicate little feelings hurt isn’t something you can sue over?”

    I’m sure I could find more if I could be bothered to read the thread.

    Yes, typical evil leftists!

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  4. “Evil”?

    Jeez. How’s about just saying you disagree with her?

    No, Patterico, making light of violent sexual threats is evil.

    It doesn’t mean she is Satan. The act of mocking an innocent recipient of threats and intimidation sure as Hell is evil.

    Also, leftists generally are evil. Anti-freedom, pro-parents killing their own children, threatening conservative women with sexual harm a la Michelle Malkin.

    These are the type of people they are. I’m not talking about everyone with a liberal bent at times. That would include myself.

    For example, this woman, Camille Paglia, is brilliant.

    I am talking leftist on the extreme that make light of threatening a woman with sexual violence. That’s evil. And any enlightened liberal of class should agree with me. On this, if nothing else.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  5. Link to Camille Paglia brilliance I intended to include.

    I don’t just mean her Al Gore and other political comments… Paris Hilton, everything. A truly insightful blog post.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  6. Link to Camille Paglia brilliance I intended to include.
       
    I don’t&nbspjust mean her Al Gore and other political comments… Paris Hilton, everything. A truly insightful blog post.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  7. Ann Althouse has a habit of grabbing a fistful of whatever’s handy and throwing it to whatever to, and to whatever degree, it sticks. It’s a professorial kind of thing. Her biggest blog fault, I suppose, may be that she treats her readers and commenters like 1-Ls.

    BTW, I wish Justin would weigh in on this because he has posted on this law before. The ICDA protects hosts from actions for libel and slander. Does it protect them from liability for propagation of threats?

    nk (c66fe9)

  8. Patterico: I really think you’ve misunderstood what I’ve been trying to say. I added an update that I hope will help:

    ” This post originated as a response to the lawyer’s phrase “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe.” I want to see “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe” protected. That doesn’t mean I support defamation or the revelation of private facts or impersonating someone by name on a website. Those are different matters, and I don’t mean to express an opinion as to whether any torts like that are alleged in the complaint. I just want to remind people to keep our free speech bearings. We have lost our way if we’ve forgotten the importance of protecting speech that is “scummy” and “offensive” and “tripe.””

    Ann Althouse (e30f71)

  9. Ann, if what you were trying to say was other than how Patterico and I took it, I apologize.

    I do indeed think some people on the far left offer vicious attacks against those they disagree with of a despicable sexual nature.

    This is their way of threatening and intimidating and it is a downright evil way to treat a lady, or anyone.

    Making light of that would also be evil.

    However, if I misunderstood you, I am sorry.

    Vile speech is protected indeed. But not threats of sexual violence used to intimidate opponents.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  10. Ann,

    You’re talking about a specific case, where specific allegations have been made. The comments referenced in the complaint are (in my judgment) indefensible if they were made as alleged — especially if their factual assertions were false.

    If you’re going to reference a specific case and a specific complaint, it seems to me that you should address the claims made in that complaint. And I think your comments were inappropriate as they relate to the allegations of the complaint.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  11. Christoph,

    While I don’t support your characterization of Ann or her views as “evil,” I think it’s important to note that, in her comment above, she doesn’t include the sexual threats mentioned in the complaint among the “different matters” that fall outside the universe of things that “we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country.”

    The omission might have been inadvertent, but reading over her comments to her own post, I suspect it wasn’t.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  12. Thanks for your clarity and thoroughness, Patterico. As you know, I will go head to head with you or anyone in debate if I disagree. But it’s usually on a point of intellectual honesty or opinion, not anger.

    Attacking a woman verbally with sexual threats and unfounded allegations makes me angry.

    I hope Ann Althouse will clarify where she stands on the specific threats and statements made in this case.

    Specifics matter, don’t they, Ann?

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  13. Patterico 1, Althouse 0.

    Of course Althouse would not bother to ridicule the “tripe” remark—or even the suit insofar as it is against the web host, which looks like a sure loser—unless she was also dismissive of the complaint as a whole, despite the defamatory (hence unprotected) content of some of the blog comments. At the least, she would have stated that she supported the complaint insofar as it was against the libels.

    It’s hard for me to read anything Althouse writes without thinking of her bizarre comments about Jessica Valenti and her defense of them on this vlog, where she seems almost unhinged. Perhaps the plaintiffs in this case also have large busts. Althouse seems to have a problem with that.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (033d26)

  14. Ann Althouse tries to be provocative and generate discussion. Patterico responds in kind. Moralizing little assholes from the left and the right (well, the Canadian right which is hardly anything America would want) attack her personally.

    Professor Althouse is not the issue. I think a mob attacking two girls, one of whom could be my daughter, is the issue. And here, let’s start this discussion: If one of these girls were actually my daughter would I be justified in tracking down her slanderers and threateners and blowing their kneecaps off? Because the “law” gave me no other remedy?

    nk (c66fe9)

  15. I’m listening to the vlog now, Andrew. What the hell is she talking about?

    She was totally reasonable for the first 5-minutes and no some reference to Jessica Valenti’s breast controversy” has her flippin’ out.

    Huh? I don’t understand this at all.

    Now to contrast with the vile aggression of the far left, I’m going to take a very red-blooded conservative approach to breasts and say breasts are very good thing. Nurturing, tender, [insert favorite breast adjective here]… I can’t understand how there could be any worthwhile controversy about one of God’s — or Gaia’s — greatest creations!

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  16. Having listened to Ann Althouse’s complete conversation with Garance Franke-Ruta, and breast thing aside, I conclude she is indeed right.

    left of blogosphere = shrill intolerant aggression
    right of blogosphere = more reasoned inclusive debate

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  17. Don’t forget the left of the blogoshere always makes sweeping generalizations about the right, Chris.

    But the right of the blogoshere always judges people on an individual basis.

    alphie (015011)

  18. Of course, I don’t favor threatening the women. (Note: they are women, not girls.) But the issue here is a lawsuit, and there are significant factual questions whether a reasonable person would see these statements as true threats (as opposed to outrageous insults).

    I’m focusing on the legal questio of what courts ought to be doing, not on question of whether whether what the guys wrote was despicable and deserving of criticism. If you can’t keep those two things distinct, you’re not interest in protecting free speech.

    Ann Althouse (e30f71)

  19. And it’s outrageous to bring up an old blogosphere flame war and link to an out-of-context reaction of me to someone who suddenly brought it up in a discussion that was supposed to be about other things. If you’re concerned with the way people try to destroy reputations with underhanded, unfair writing on the internet, it’s time to look in a mirror.

    Ann Althouse (e30f71)

  20. “Didn’t the Supreme Court already establish that having your delicate little feelings hurt isn’t something you can sue over?”

    Hmmm…I was unaware that they’d struck down “intentional infliction of emotional distress” claims.

    Pablo (99243e)

  21. Oh I love how lawspeakers manage to defend vile, despicable speech in the name of free speech but the moment you ask them to define the meaning of ‘same-sex union between a man and a women’ they’ll accuse you of backward 19th century puritanical homophobic hate-speech.

    susan (7faf4d)

  22. So if this kind of trolling, threats to rape, mutilate, accusations of crimes, etc., are protected, what does that mean for the sewer dwellers of the Internet like Deb Frisch? Is it protected speech to threaten to molest and murder someone’s toddler just to get a reaction? I mean, her entire defense to this day is that her threats were political speech and therefore protected.

    Auspex (474155)

  23. Offensive comments like this used to be dealt with at dawn in a remote location, with seconds and a doctor attending.

    gahrie (de5a83)

  24. Patterico, I’ve disagreed with you in the past, (over another Ann’s lovely comments), but have to say, I think you’re dead-on with this; Andrew, you too.

    It would be one thing if Althouse’s blog was a dryly specialized and highly formal one on technical aspects of law – but, well, no. One could argue that the alleged behavior is so universally understood to be heinous that mentioning this is pointless and unnecessary, or is simply a different matter (as she does above), except Ann a) doesn’t argue with commentators minimizing this behavior (but does argue with others), and b) minimizes this behavior herself, in good faith or bad (she insists in comments that:
    Did I say that what the AutoAdmit kids wrote about the plaintiffs was just swell?
    but then:
    LOL. Then what do you think the AutoAdmit guys do??? They look at crap on the web and blab about it. Same thing. . . . The AutoAdmit guys were mainly expressing their opinions — that they found various women attractive (expressing it very crudely) . . . From what I’ve read, it did not sound as though the guys were doing anything other than speaking very crudely about how attractive the women were. “).

    It’s a matter of emphasis, I think. She admits, in passing that “If the question is defamation, I haven’t said anything about that.[not exactly a ringing condemnation, but hey] . . . Not everything is protected. I certainly agree with that.” – and I certainly agree with the importance of “keeping our free speech bearings.” – There’s a difference between displaying a picture of a cross in a jar of urine and burning a cross on the neighbors’ lawn, but as to where exactly the line falls, I think decent people can disagree without necessary being “anti-freedom” or racist or whatever.

    If you’re concerned with the way people try to destroy reputations with underhanded, unfair writing on the internet, it’s time to look in a mirror.

    She also repeatedly compares the harassment of the women involved to her own online treatment, generally suggesting the latter is as bad or worse, so there! For example, back in early March she responded to the original AutoAdmit story with a dismissive:

    . . . Come on! What rational employer would deny you a job because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good? (I am sympathetic to the woman who had someone impersonate her by name in a chat. There is a popular blog where that is done to me in the comments and openly encouraged.

    And in most of the comments I quote above, she’s telling commentators who disagree with her on this matter that she’s the real victim, or even that they’re the real stalkers:
    But I admit, what you are doing is different in some ways — it’s creepier to obsess over me for — what? — years than for the AutoAdmit guys finding pictures of women sexy.
    or
    By the way, people write incredibly nasty things about me on the web frequently. I have never considered suing them. Do you think I should? Much of it is false and intended to destroy my reputation and cause me great anxiety.

    Certainly she’s been frequently criticized – rightly or not – and even meanly parodied, but the way she constantly makes this comparison suggests she either a) doesn’t grasp the kind of situation the other women were subjected to, or b), does, and goes for the rhetorical or inflammatory effect anyway, because she doesn’t care that she’s completely minimizing what happened to them. If I’m judging her unfairly, perhaps she can set us straight.

    Dan S. (92e220)

  25. I notice that Althouse still hasn’t made any simple, plain remark about the defamation component of the lawsuit. Instead, she tries a misplaced tu quoque attack on me. Well, unlike Althouse and Instapundit, I’m not a go-to guy for pundit television shows. I’m not even a lawyer. I hold myself to a lower standard. But if Althouse doesn’t see the difference between my very low opinion of her vlog performance and the defendants’ accusations that are clearly libelous if untrue, I’m not sure why she’s a lawyer and a pundit.

    Victim complex, anyone?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (033d26)

  26. Andrew: I think there may be some defamation there in that big, jumbled complaint, perhaps with respect to the defendant who said one of the plaintiffs had herpes. But most of the statements are just exaggerated talk about how women look and how the men feel sexual desire for them. How repressive do you want the government to be?

    And as for whether I have experienced what these women have, I think I’ve been savaged much more and for much longer by people who are actively trying to destroy my reputation (for political reasons). And I have a sexist/sexual AutoAdmit thread about me here. Which I have laughed off.

    Pablo quotes one of my commenters saying “Didn’t the Supreme Court already establish that having your delicate little feelings hurt isn’t something you can sue over?” and says “Hmmm…I was unaware that they’d struck down ‘intentional infliction of emotional distress’ claims.” The question is how extreme do the statements need to be before they can be actionable? Do you really want it to be possible to sue men who talk about how some woman has large breasts and he’d like to have sex with her? I mean, really, that’s not what the intentional infliction of emotion distress tort has been, and I think if it were extended that far it would violate free speech… and you should too.

    Ann Althouse (e30f71)

  27. Ann, the AutoAdmit post about you is indeed sexist, but it is neither defamatory nor threatening, making it an entirely irrelevant comparison.

    dom (3c3994)

  28. Patterico found four statements that appear defamatory (if false) and Althouse finds only one. I guess for her the complaint is just too jumbled.

    Let’s assume that much of the complaint is invalid—for example, the charges against the web site operator. It still says something very curious Reynolds’ and Althouse’s affinities that they are so sympathetic to the cowardly, vulgar, pseudonymous defendants over the plaintiffs. Which is worse: drafting a sloppy blunderbuss complaint or committing the torts that are the sections of the complaint? Perhaps the answer depends on breast size?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (033d26)

  29. Christoph:

    I do indeed think some people on the far left offer vicious attacks against those they disagree with of a despicable sexual nature.

    Well, unfortunately, yes (also, in Malkin’s case, despicable racist attacks). Where you appear to go wrong – unless (quite possibly) I’m missing some irony, etc. – is seeming to assume this is a matter of the political orientation axis, in that far-leftism itself correlates positively with making disgusting sexual threats, rather than a misogyny/sexism/(also racism) axis, which is at least partly independent of the other one.

    In fact, to the degree that there is a relationship, it would seem that it runs the other way; opposition to this sort of thing is more a part of the left as a whole (and yes, decent people on both sides indeed agree that it’s unacceptable and disgusting) – although unfortunately not completely, and the fact that the right’s regressive morons are currently more numerous, noisy, and influential than the left’s in no way excuses such actions on anyone’s part.

    But this general finger-pointing debate is unlikely to convince folks on either side (and if I misunderstand you, I apologize), so back to Ann:

    there are significant factual questions whether a reasonable person would see these statements as true threats (as opposed to outrageous insults).

    I believe this particular remark has a close cousin called “Boys will be boys.” Remarks like “I think I will sodomize her. Repeatedly.” are assumed to not mean anything – they’re just an outrageous insult. If the woman was say, Paris Hilton or Hillary Clinton, a reasonable person might indeed view this as deeply disturbing – even evidence for how threats of sexual violence attempt to function to intimidate outspoken/visible/etc. women – but unlikely to be a realistic threat, given the circumstances. That’s not the case here. For Doe I, it’s more as if I went online and found people saying on a local-area website, hey, that Dan S[full name]. (picture included) is going to be moving into [neighborhood] this summer, keep an eye out for him, followed by guys – quite possibly my neighbors-to-be- talking about how they would rape and sodomize me. Except I can assume that, outside of prison, it’s extremely unlikely that I would in fact be raped by other men; Doe I cannot make that assumption (indeed, if she made that assumption and acted accordingly, and was then raped, she would probably be criticized for not being more careful – what did she expect?)

    I’m focusing on the legal questio of what courts ought to be doing, not on question of whether whether what the guys wrote was despicable and deserving of criticism.

    But a) as I’ve argued, she isn’t solely focusing on that question, but also engaging, through acts of both omission and commission, in the question of the nature and severity of what “the guys” wrote, and b) that question, as she herself mentions above, is in fact directly tied into “what courts ought to be doing”.

    Dan S. (92e220)

  30. Hmmmm.

    Sexual threats? All I saw were idiots talking big.

    memomachine (0b5c51)

  31. But most of the statements are just exaggerated talk about how women look and how the men feel sexual desire for them. How repressive do you want the government to be?

    Ann, that last question is very relevant and important, and as I said above, it’s one where I think it’s not impossible that well-meaning folk might disagree on in this case. But then there’s the preceding statement, where you seem to be framing what happened in the mildest terms possible (even leaving aside, for example, the argument that comments like “i’ll force myself on her, most definitely,” and “I think I will sodomize her” ultimately have very little to do with feeling sexual desire). That statement certainly doesn’t invalidate the question, but it . . . raises questions as to how you are approaching it, perhaps.

    Dan S. (92e220)

  32. Good Lord, I can’t believe that kind of garbage even triggers some misbegotten and heated “free country, free expression” debate.

    When this kind of “sexually offensive tripe” was scrawled on bathroom walls, that was as far as it went. Anyone want to ennoble that as “free expression” with a straight face? Please. And odds were pretty good that prospective employers, landlords, dates, friends, and family members were never going to end up seeing that “Suzie gives it up easy call her 555-1234″.

    So tell me how the Internet turns bathroom graffitti into “free expression”? It’s not just some new forum to be accomodated. It’s a paradigm-shifter. Those flame-threads and dedicated “Don’t Date These Scumbags” sites are permanent. Google means the whole world is that bathroom wall. And the practical effect of hosting shield laws is that there’s no incentive for the owner to paint over it.

    Sarge6 (23a266)

  33. “But most of the statements are just exaggerated talk about how women look and how the men feel sexual desire for them”

    Ann,

    At least some of the comments are arguably threatening. Why not address those?

    Patterico (635b2c)

  34. Whether those are true threats is a question we can disagree about. I don’t think they are. It’s not polite speech, and I don’t like it either, but that doesn ‘t make it a real threat. It makes it ugly and deserving of condemnation, but I still disapprove of the lawsuit.

    Sarge: “When this kind of “sexually offensive tripe” was scrawled on bathroom walls, that was as far as it went. Anyone want to ennoble that as “free expression” with a straight face? Please.”

    Free speech cases often involve offensive speech. To support free speech is to stick with it even when you hate what is being said. That is our free speech tradition. You want to abandon it because of the internet? But there will always be crap on the internet. People need to learn how to deal with it, and it would be much better to learn how to be resist believing in bad speech and to build up one’s personal strength — which is especially important for women — and not to go to the government for help with everything.

    Ann Althouse (e30f71)

  35. It is not a question of “going to the government for help”. It is a question of an adequate forum where one’s rights to his reputation can be vindicated in an orderly and peaceful manner. Society has a legitimate interest in not abandoning its individual members from its protection to such an extent that their only defense to a yammering mob is a machine gun.

    nk (aec62c)

  36. In Ann Althouse’s world perhaps that is what used to be said, not in my world. Or, any other world I knew/know of except the vile, uncivilized, disgusting worlds most people stay out of. Today, that would be, for politics, DailyKos or MyDD … Atrios…you get the point. Since I never nor do inhabit these worlds, I truly don’t know what was or is.

    Sue (c5ed0c)

  37. Gahrie’s comment #22 strikes a chord. In my law school days I read some of the legislative history of the outlawry of dueling in the eighteenth century. One argument made was that lawsuits would be inadequate to redress the grievances that gave rise to duels. Now we are arguing whether we should abolish lawsuits and the adequacy of the remedy we would have then. We are becoming more civilized. ;)

    nk (aec62c)

  38. “Whether those are true threats is a question we can disagree about. I don’t think they are. It’s not polite speech, and I don’t like it either, but that doesn ‘t make it a real threat.”

    So a person can threaten to attack a woman sexually in various ways, sodomize her say, but only after wearing something to protect theselves from the herpes they state she has, frigthen the wits out of her, and because you or some third party doesn’t think the person will do it, they aren’t “true threats”?

    Therefore, you would defend his right to say them, together with a large variety of his peers, on free speech grounds?

    Even when his peers are encouraging him to follow her? Even when he actually follows her, takes her picture, and posts it on the internet where it attracts still more sexual comments and threats?

    Ann, do you believe this is all protected free speech and he/they should just be allowed to “have at ‘er?”

    Does that make any sense to you at all?

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  39. Whether those are true threats is a question we can disagree about.

    Ann, if there were folks on that AutoAdmit thread about you making, for example, the remarks Patterico quotes above from Paragraph 27 – while remarking about where you teach and telling people to keep an eye out for you, and with some of them at least apparently residing there as well, would you regard that as at least potentially threatening?

    And while I don’t know the details of your employment situation, if you were up for tenure and didn’t get it, given that you talk about how there is an extensive and long-running effort by people to destroy your reputation, what might be your reaction?

    To support free speech is to stick with it even when you hate what is being said.

    Yes, of course, but aren’t there cases where the issue isn’t the hatefulness of the content – however hateful – but the consequences?

    and it would be much better to learn how to be resist believing in bad speech and to build up one’s personal strength — which is especially important for women — and not to go to the government for help with everything.

    This seems quite susceptible to reductio ad absurdum arguments, about harassment at least, and possibly other acts as well.

    Dan S. (92e220)

  40. Some guys make sexual threats and surreptitiously follow and take pictures of the female students. Seems to me (not a lawyer) this a lot worse than doing one or the other. Would it be reasonable to at least seek to out the guys and get a restraining order? IMO, the little creeps should be outed. As a (now semi-retired) employer whose employees were commonly all in contact with customers, I would weigh this sort of ‘hijinks’ very heavily when hiring. Appalling lack of judgment and maturity. Happy to see that at least one of them had a job offer retracted.

    chuckR (abd674)

  41. Well, I think we should bring the duel back. That way, I can say whatever I want and if you have a problem with it, I get to shoot you for criticizing me.

    Civilization is tyranny (5f37cb)

  42. Perils for Libel Plaintiffs:…

    In my post below on the autoadmit case, I noted that the pseudonymous posters faced huge professional risks from being identified. But say t……

    The Volokh Conspiracy (fa8fba)

  43. One very important fact that Patterico and some commenters have gotten wrong: To my knowledge, Pictures of Doe I or Doe II were not taken at the behest of autoadmit posters and even if they were, they were NEVER posted on any autoadmit thread. I say this as a prominent autoadmit poster who very closely followed the original threads. The complaint does not make this claim either. (See paragraph 43.)

    AGAIN, NO PICS OF EITHER DOE WERE TAKEN AND POSTED ON AUTOADMIT!

    Autoadmit Deity (b07f98)

  44. autoadmit deity, can you tell us the identity of the autoadmit poster “trustafarian” who posted a threat to shoot people at hastings law school? i have read that this poster is a boalt student. in other cases where people have made criminal threats over the internet, their identities are quickly revealed by the media, but “trustafarian” remains cloaked. why is this? is he pulling some kind of influence here to remain anonymous and save his career? how much influence do you have to have before official solicitude for your career prospects trumps public safety?

    assistant devil's advocate (16c4ea)

  45. AutoAdmit Deity,

    I’m at lunch and can’t check on your assertion until I get home. If I have gotten this wrong I will fix it tonight.

    Patterico (bd891a)

  46. Now this is a genuine First Amendment issue. It may very well be the next “flag-burning” case. ;)

    nk (aec62c)

  47. assistant devil’s advocate,

    I don’t know who trustafarian is but supposedly he was kicked out of Boalt after coming forward. I think that’s punishment enough. Why should his name be publicized in addition?

    Even if I did know his identity, I would not reveal it here. Among most AutoAdmit posters there is a certain tendency to “protect our own.” We enjoy poking fun at outsiders and making distasteful, disgusting jokes but want to refrain from hurting each other, for the most part. Everyone on AutoAdmit who read trustafarian’s post knew it was a joke, but obviously it didn’t appear that way to people who read it out of context.

    Autoadmit Deity (bfe3d2)

  48. Althouse argues: most of the statements were not defamatory or threats. Maybe some, but mostly not.

    Funny, I thought the issue was whether there were threats or defamatory statements there, but now I find out that if the illegal statements are in the minority of the overall speech, they don’t count! Professor, can I mail you my tuition for today’s lesson directly?

    As for the lesson that girls are wimps, I’ll take that one as a freebie.

    Anselm (2dcf66)

  49. [...] to Althouse: But most of the statements are just exaggerated talk about how women look and how the men feel [...]

    Feministe » Take it like a man (2711a8)

  50. autoadmit deity, you have no idea if “trustafarian” was kicked out of boalt or not, because it’s being handled in secret, which rightfully raises the suspicion that it’s being covered up in secret.

    i’m not talking punishment at all, i’m talking protection of innocent people’s lives by giving them the information they need to know when someone who has threatened them in the past shows up at their site. 27 years out of hastings, i no longer have standing, but i’m surprised no current student has sued does 1-10 and taken discovery to out the author of this threat.

    i was dismayed to see those sympathies you so frankly disclosed. 32 dead virginians agree with me that there’s too much solicitude for the privacy of threat-making psychos at the sacrifice of public safety.

    assistant devil's advocate (15071b)

  51. a.d.a., here’s one time where I will agree with you heartily.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  52. assistant devil’s advocate,

    The fact that you think someone’s life was actually in danger reveals your lack of understanding of the type of humor that is common on autoadmit and thousands of other websites. All over the internet, people make jokes about doing violent, heinous things and post about them on blogs or other forms. In fact, the very anonymous nature of posts encourages posters to try to outdo each other by posting more and more outrageous ideas.

    You are right that I don’t know if he was expelled. However, we know the case was investigated by the police and FBI. We know Boalt’s Dean has recommended to the Berkeley Judicial Affairs Office that the student be expelled. In all seriousness, what more do you want? The guy’s legal career and education are ruined. When you attend an event at Hastings are you really fearful that trustafarian is going to attack? You have a better chance of being run over by a car or getting stabbed during a mugging.

    Autoadmit Deity (9c4cb9)

  53. “The fact that you think someone’s life was actually in danger…”

    I don’t know the answer to that question. I do think someone was given reason to believe her safety was in jeapordy.

    Christoph (bad4f9)

  54. AutoAdmitDeity:

    “All over the internet, people make jokes about doing violent, heinous things and post about them on blogs or other forms. In fact, the very anonymous nature of posts encourages posters to try to outdo each other by posting more and more outrageous ideas.”

    That turned out to be a bad idea, didn’t it?

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  55. DRJ,

    For trustafarian, it turned out to be bad only because someone who didn’t understand the context of the joke took it seriously.

    Consider for a moment how many joking threats occur on the internet every day. I would venture to guess 99.999% have no real life consequences whatsoever.

    Autoadmit Deity (bfe3d2)

  56. At least some of the comments are arguably threatening. Why not address those?

    (I’m not Ann but…) Obviously rape threats are not protected by the First Amendment. There’s nothing interesting to discuss there. Nearly everyone agrees that the posters threatening to rape the women, even if the threats were clearly non-serious (it’s worth noting that the women apparently never secured restraining orders), deserve punishment of some kind. (I do believe people are too freely labeling these defendants “scum” and fail to understand the psychological temptations created by the seemingly unrestricted, Garden-of-Eden-like world of the internet. That’s another issue.)

    But most of the defendants did not threaten or defame the plaintiffs. Most of the defendants were just crude and offensive. Here is where the interesting First Amendment questions lie. Here is where it’s highly questionable, in my mind, whether the lawsuit is fair to the defendants. In real life, some of the sexually charged comments, alleged to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress, are made all the time in dorms and locker rooms. I have heard them frequently as a student at Harvard Law School. Are they crude and offensive? Yeah. Should men refrain from making them? Probably. Should men be sued and publicly humiliated for making them? No, I really don’t think so–at least not when they aren’t in a position of power. Should they be protected by the First Amendment? I think absolutely.

    pequod (f9c5f7)

  57. AutoAdmit Deity,

    I’m not finding a specific claim that I made re the photos that is incorrect. If I have, please give me the quote and the link to the relevant comment or post. Thanks.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  58. pequod,

    “it’s worth noting that the women apparently never secured restraining orders”

    Why?

    How would they have gone about doing that?

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  59. In other posts, commenters encouraged one another to follow one of the plaintiffs and take pictures of her. One of the posters did, and then commenters made crude sexual comments about her under the picture, which was obviously posted without her consent.

    Autoadmit Deity (dcbe40)

  60. AutoAdmitDeity #55:

    Actions can be legal but still foolish. It seems the AutoAdmit.com folks are learning that the hard way.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  61. Autoadmit Deity,

    I added ths language to the post:

    [UPDATE: To be clear, the pictures were posted on another site, and merely linked (with crude commentary) on the AutoAdmit.com site.]

    By the way, I found the relevant threads, or at least some of them — and the pictures. It was trivially easy to do — perhaps illustrating the danger of publicizing all this through a lawsuit. Still, it’s quite amazing to see it with your own eyes — including something I didn’t notice in the complaint: posters chuckling over evidence that one of the women’s father is a convicted felon.

    It’s repulsive behavior, if you ask me.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  62. Patterico:

    My objection is to the phrase “One of the posters did” following the sentence “…commenters encouraged one another to follow one of the plaintiffs and take pictures of her.” This suggests someone actually followed Doe II, snapped a picture, uploaded to an image-hosting site, then finally posted a link to the picture on AutoAdmit.

    In reality, the source of the pictures was Doe II’s facebook profile and publicly available pictures of her found online. To my knowledge, no one was followed or had her pictures taken. NEVER were pictures of Doe II taken by AutoAdmit posters posted on the site or anywhere else.

    The issue of Doe II’s felonious father was not posted on AutoAdmit until after the Washington Post story broke and she and Doe I had consulted Reputation Defender. Essentially, publicizing the initial harassment brought further undesirable attention to her. Clearly, the girls did not realize the depravity of the most vicious AutoAdmit posters. If they had, they probably would not have stirred the pot by talking to reporters and Reputation Defender.

    Finally, I hope readers of your blog won’t reach the conclusion that I condone all the actions of my AutoAdmit brethren. I enjoy making tasteless jokes and commenting on pictures of girls as much as anyone else there, but I do have limits and many of the posts made on the threads mentioned in the complaint passed my personal limits of taste.

    Autoadmit Deity (b55383)

  63. I gotcha now.

    I added this further update:

    [FURTHER UPDATE: Upon closer examination of the complaint, there is no specific allegation that the pictures that were linked (and posted on another site) were taken by a stalker, even though such behavior was encouraged.]

    Thanks for helping clarify that.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  64. Herpes? I thought that was standard equipment.

    Child: Daddy, what’s Herpes?

    Dad: A cold sore on your package.

    Child: What’s a cold sore?

    Dad: Herpes on your lip.

    Alan Kellogg (eddacc)

  65. I’m frustrated by the literal interpretations of each defendant’s post, both in blogs and in the complaint. In real life, people make absurd or non-literal comments all the time, which, taken literally, would be quite frightening. We’ve probably all been told, hyperbolically, “I want to kill you” before. In many contexts, we would interpret this to mean “I am annoyed with you” or something even more benign. Context matters.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that anyone in the complaint wanted any anyone else to stalk a plaintiff, taking pictures of her in the gym. It was much more likely a silly, nonserious comment equivalent to “Take pictures =D!” A common joke on the board, which applies in non-lewd contexts as well, is “TTIWOP,” which means “This thread is worthless without pictures.” It doesn’t mean the poster actually wants someone else to go out and take pictures. It’s just “being silly.” I’d like to think that each of us can be silly once in a while without someone literally–and perhaps disingenuously–interpreting what we say and suing over it.

    Each defendant is a real person with real feelings. I don’t think many of them deserve what they’re getting. I think the plaintiffs’ lawyers have shielded themselves by focusing on the worst abusers and by presenting defendants’ statements out of context. Sure, that’s what you do as a lawyer trying to make as much money as possible for your client. It’s not what you should be doing, in my opinion, when you’re a pro bono lawyer trying to serve the public good. It shouldn’t be what Yale and Stanford law professors do. I think the complaint is borderline unethical for this reason.

    Just imagine what it would feel like to be that defendant right now. You meant the comment to be a lighthearted, only mildly lewd joke–a joke you would even make in real life around females who might laugh and think you’re being silly. Now you have the plaintiffs and their attorneys lumping you into a complaint with people who Googlebombed the girls–that is, willfully aimed to damage the girls’ lives–and taking your comment out of context. The plaintiffs have wrongly implied that you support and encouraged stalking, and this is made public. My opinion is that what the plaintiffs are doing to you is cruel and unethical.

    pequod (f9c5f7)

  66. I think some of y’all are downplaying this whole episode a little too much.

    There were pictures posted. Some were pictures of the girls (assumedly from their myspace/facebook pages), others were doctored pornographic pictures with the girls heads photoshopped on.

    Also, Ann, the comments were not strictly “that girl has big boobs, and I want to have sex with her.” It was a barrage of all sorts of lewd, carnal, derogatory, humiliating things about the girls’ own sexual activities, diseases, as well as what certain posters wanted to do to these girls. It was hardly as you represent it.

    And to even begin to compare the attention you receive (which you seem to instigate and endorse) with the attention these girls received is laughable.

    Furthermore, the mods and the posters have made a mockery of the whole ordeal from day one to present. The mods’ offer to remove the content only if the girls called him and apologized for hiring Reputation Defender was sarcastic, and to display power over them (they would submit first, not him). And then some poster even emailed Yale Law School, and a handful of Vault firms a synopsis of all the filth XOXO had spent months creating, as if this were some game.

    Like most I’m not sure as to the legal workings of this suit, but I do know the way the case is being characterized is absolutely dishonest and disingenuous.

    Bob (65844d)

  67. Bob,

    Perhaps the case is being mischaracterized by both sides. There is no doubt that some defendants did horrible things, such as those you describe. But there is also no doubt that some of the defendants did far less horrible things. The cruelty of some defendants should not be downplayed, but neither should the fact that some defendants ARE being sued for saying, as you put it “that girl has big boobs, and I want to have sex with her.” Joining these latter defendants in the same suit as the former only heightens grave First Amendment and privacy concerns. Not only does the mere existence of a (rather frivolous) suit against the latter defendants chill internet speech; the guilt by association created by joining them with the former defendants severely chills speech. The more I think about this lawsuit, the more I am deeply disturbed. It is hard to believe that a member of the advisory board of the EFF is pushing this.

    pequod (9e83d9)

  68. Do you not think that those who said things that (probably) aren’t actionable will be tossed aside at some point during this process?

    Or in other words, you can include them in the suit, but you might not be successful in taking it any further than that?

    Bob (65844d)

  69. I think it’s likely that some of the defendants whose comments were less objectionable know things like real names of other, utterly objectionable authors. Perhaps they’ll trade being a witness for being a defendant. That would be a bargain. They knew they were posting in a cesspool.

    Props for comment 66.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (77a428)

  70. Makes me proud to see the fine quality of people entering the legal profession (and those already in it). :-)

    From a law enforcement perspective, it’s too bad no sting operation was made out of this. It would have been possible to the bait the worst offenders out of hiding behind their computers, determine their real identities and then scare them into giving up other names and more intel. All issues of entrapment aside, it would at least affix actual names and identities of those who had threatened the worst harm.

    Sadly, the law enforcement folks just don’t have the time for an operation like this (too busy hunting down people working the plumbing business without a license. They’re a major threat to society you know.)

    Lincoln (73f20e)

  71. Yes pequod, what about those poor defendants? Can you imagine being accused of something you’ve actually done?! And in a public forum no less! Why this may even hurt their future job prospects. Unfortunately for them, the truth is an actual defense in a first amendment case, so I guess they’re just going to have to suck it up.

    Why it’s almost as bad as when Anne Althouse gets called out on something she’s actually written on her own blog – in another blog! Can you imagine!

    Bob Loblaw (23d1c4)

  72. [...] (Amir Efrati, WSJ Law Blog, Jun. 12). Lawprofs David N. Rosen (Yale) and Mark A. Lemley (Stanford) are assisting the plaintiffs, and Rosen told the WSJ Law Blog in an interview that the case was about “bringing the right to protect yourself against offensive words and images into the 21st century,” calling the postings “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe.” Discussion: Eugene Volokh, Ann Althouse , Glenn Reynolds, David Lat, Patterico. [...]

    AutoAdmit message board lawsuit (38253e)


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