There’s been some discussion going around about the recent AutoAdmit lawsuit that was recently filed, and since I previously read about some of the details on Feministe a few months back, I thought I’d share my own take on it here.
You know, let’s face it: The Internet is not a safe place. There are some whacked out loonies on this box that would give even steely Chuck Norris the creeps (…ok maybe not Chuck Norris, but you get my point). Yet the women involved here (whether they were parties to the suit or not) had an unfortunate tendency to post their real names and upload pictures of themselves online, whether in galleries like Flickr or other settings, and sometimes these photos could be a bit, uhh… alluring.
They certainly had a right to do so if they wanted to, and to say that their actions meant they were automatically “asking for trouble” is plainly sexist to me. The problem though is that their behavior also exhibited a sense of naivete as to the dangers of posting personal information about yourself online, especially if you’re an attractive looking woman. I can understand their grievance here however, that if a guy can post details about himself and not get any flak for it, then the same should hold true for a girl.
But that’s not reality. Hell even I’ve been threatened to be sued, stalked, my server hacked and God only knows what else, and I’m a GUY. That’s partly why I don’t reveal too much about myself and use a pseudonym for blogging.
Even more, nothing superbly made the point as to the dangers of exposure on the Internet, than the recent hoopla over a certain high school pole vaulter who had suddenly become a Google trend and the topic of many rude and coarse discussions, all because of ONE professional photograph that had been taken of her (and no I’m not giving the name or posting a photo, so sod off horndogs). It all underscores the sad reality that the more info you post about yourself online, the more you leave yourself open for tremendous attack (or unwanted attention), no matter what gender you are. So as much as it might pain some proud feminists to do so, please, for your sake, be wise when posting content of a personal nature on the Internet.
Now let’s examine the other side of the equation, how some of the commentators at AutoAdmit treated the female law students in question…
I think here I’ll simply reiterate what I said on Ann Althouse’s blog (edited for clarity):
No offense Ms. Althouse, but you (and other law professors like Reynolds) basically flipped off the female law students in question and dismissed their initial fears out of hand, while completely glossing over the stalking elements of the AutoAdmit threads. If you showed any true sympathy for their plight as you claim, it must have been in passing, because that certainly wasn’t the impression I had when reading your thoughts on the subject.
The threads didn’t merely contain off the wall comments, but disturbing material that encouraged criminal behavior and put the targeted law students in legitimate fear for their safety. You had much to say about the students’ fear of being able to find work as a result of this mess, but to THIS you offer few, if any words of genuine sympathy.
While I personally do think a degree of it is hyperbole, including the issue of whether these threads could dramatically affect their career goals (it may or may not), there are other issues to consider, and even if the cause of action to bring suit lacks merit, it may be because the plaintiffs in question saw no other recourse. They asked that the threads be taken down, and as far as I know the administrators flipped them off (even now). The refusal to remove threads that discussed rape fantasies, listed addresses of the victims, encouraged quasi-paparazzi behavior (and God only knows what else) may be an exercise in free speech in your view, but it also showed a gross and utter lack of common decency. Yet for all this talk about copyright issues and damage to career prospects, etc., little has been said about the more disturbing (and yes violent) elements of the AutoAdmit threads here. Ciolli not only lost his job offer over it (as it appears), but he may have also inadvertently opened the door to the introduction of new case law (presuming this lawsuit actually has wheels) that could potentially assign some degree of culpability and liability to the administrators of Internet message boards for the future, all because this asshat refused to do the right thing in the first place. Insane laws always get started like this too. Because one jerkwad couldn’t be bothered to do the right thing, the rest of us have to pay for it.
In regards to free speech, some may remember the pressing issue of whether simply posting a list of home addresses to abortionist doctors on an anti-abortion website (and nothing else) constituted legitimate free speech. Yet to what purpose would this serve? That it might come up on Jeopardy one night? Compare this to posting the addresses of the female students on AutoAdmit and then making rather umm, rude suggestions on what to do with that information. Is this still protected free speech?
Such issues of free speech is a grave subject not to be taken lightly. But what some of the AutoAdmit members did was incredibly atrocious, and if we can agree on that, what then should have been the proper recourse, if not this lawsuit? From this side of the valley the answers collectively seem to be: just ignore it.
Are you kidding me? If candid snapshots of me were posted on an hostile forum complete with my home address and healthy discussions on what Big Bruno would like to do to me once he gets his hands on me, I’m supposed to IGNORE this? I think I can understand now why some feminists might not like conservatives very much.
It’s also surprising to see law professors who are charged with teaching proper legal analysis to their students, analysis that requires a careful evaluation of ALL sides, would resort to making treatises that would be so obnoxious and embarrassingly one dimensional in tone here.
Law professors. Ugh. The scummiest kind of lawyers indeed.
You know, it does seem to me that some of the blogging law professors’ reaction to the law students’ complaints have been obnoxious to say the least, and it’s unfortunate to see them have an overbearingly overexposed presence in the blogosphere. But then again what other occupation pays you a 6 digit salary with a work week of only 8-10 hours and the possibility of tenure, (which curiously enough leaves you all the time in the world to blog?) :-D