Monday, September 24, 2007

I still don't understand--why is there a rush to judgment against Anthony Ciolli?

In reading other postings about Amir Efrati's story today in the WSJ, I came across Brian Leiter's postings about Anthony Ciolli, here and here. And here's a compendium of other posts, over at Above the Law, along with the NPR news story about the lawsuit. I really enjoyed the post at The Volokh Conspiracy analyzing the claims (here).

Here's what I don't get: unless AutoAdmit was a moderated forum, why is Anthony being punished for what some very, very scary people posted on his website? I agree that the people who posted the awful comments demonstrated a dreadful lack of character, but that lack of character shouldn't be imputed to Anthony. Are the plaintiffs (and Brian Leiter, and many others) saying that the very existence of the forum means that the creators of the forum are responsible for what others say on it? Does that theory mean that the WSJ or the NYT will now be responsible to me for letters to the editors that they publish if those published letters anger me?

What the posters said on AutoAdmit sickened me, and I feel very sorry for the plaintiffs who had to read such awful statements. I wouldn't want to hire anyone who believed that those AutoAdmit posts were a good idea. But I still don't get the connection. How do those posts, written by people who are NOT Anthony, make Anthony himself into a misogynist? That transitivity theory is very much like the old transitivity theory that we Rice students used to prove that, almost every year, Rice won the Southwest Conference title: Rice beat School A (ok, that part of the transitivity sometimes failed); School A beat School B, etc. ... and School X beat School Y to win the title. Ergo, Rice really won the title by beating School A in the first place. It's clear that the AutoAdmit posters were exhibiting misogynistic and almost sociopathic behavior; but I haven't read any justification to impute that behavior to Anthony himself.

So here's what I see: on the one hand, some people who CLEARLY were victimized by what I'd call truly vicious attacks, apparently for sport, and who deserve to be heard in court against those reprehensible people who posted such things; on the other hand, the owner(s) of the forum, who either have to be willing to moderate the forum at all times or who have to decide not to moderate anything, until something's been proven to be libel. I'm no internet expert, but I'm going to assume that there are no real winners here.

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