Ridiculous: Nick Denton Settles Remaining Charles Harder Lawsuits, Agrees To Delete Perfectly True Stories

from the that's-fucked-up dept

Congrats Peter Thiel: you’ve successfully censored true stories reported by the press. Just a little while ago, Nick Denton posted that the remaining three cases filed by lawyer Charles Harder against Gawker, Denton and some reporters had been settled, with the agreement to remove the stories. Harder, of course, is the lawyer that Peter Thiel set up with his own practice, with the stated mission of filing lawsuits that would kill Gawker. Thiel/Harder “won” back when this effort forced Gawker into bankruptcy and then a fire sale to Univision. But now the remaining stories have been officially killed off. This includes the famous Hulk Hogan story and case — meaning that the appeal, which basically every lawyer admits would have resulted in overturning the lower court’s jury verdict, is dead. I know the Gawker haters will cheer this outright censorship (or, worse, insist that this proves that the case was legitimate — despite the fact it never was). But let’s focus on one of the other stories that is getting censored here thanks to Peter Thiel’s actions.

It’s the one that we wrote about the most: Shiva Ayyaudrai claims to have invented email when he was a kid. He did not. I won’t go through all the details again, but as a kid in 1978, Ayyadurai did apparently create (independently) a software program for electronic mail for a college he worked for. By all accounts, it was a good program that was useful. He named it EMAIL and eventually registered a copyright for that piece of software. That’s it. It’s a neat accomplishment for a kid. But it is not “inventing email” by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s because (1) every single thing that Ayyadurai did had already been done elsewhere, often many years earlier, and (2) all of that other work was done in public settings via RFCs and the process that eventually led to the email systems that we use today. Ayyadurai’s email system… contributed to nothing. It was late to the game and it never went any further. Again, it was impressive that as a kid he basically independently created an electronic mailing system, but that’s different from “inventing email.” But, for whatever reason, Ayyadurai has staked his entire identity on the outright false claim that he invented email. He’s written a book about it. He has a whole webpage about it. And he keeps pushing the story on the press, including teaming up with a famous PR guy and (???) Noam Chomsky to argue that there was a giant conspiracy to deny him his rightful designation as the inventor of email. He often claims this is because he’s of Indian descent, ignoring that one of the actual inventors of email, on RFC 561 is Abhay Bhushan (who also created FTP) and is, also, of Indian descent.

Ayyadurai is so obsessed with his false claim of creating email, that he even went on a petulant Twitter rampage after one of the actual creators of email, Ray Tomlinson, passed away earlier this year, yelling at any journalist who accurately credited Tomlinson’s work on email.

Along with us, one of the other publications that highlighted Ayyadurai’s bullshit claims was… Gawker. And, then, in May Ayyadurai sued Gawker using Charles Harder as his lawyer, over two Gawker articles on Ayyadurai. Those articles were completely accurate. Ayyadurai did not invent email. He wants the world to believe he did, despite mountains of evidence that says he’s wrong. Gawker’s reporting was entirely accurate. This is not about “sex tapes” or “privacy” or any of the stuff people want to talk about with the Hulk Hogan story. This was exposing someone who was blatantly misrepresenting history for his own personal aggrandizing.

And now it’s gone, because continuing to fight the lawsuit was too much. As Denton notes:

But all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people, and there was no end in sight.

Denton notes that, especially given the reporters who were directly sued in these cases, it was best to just move on to “focus on activities more productive than endless litigation. Life is short, for most of us.”

That’s true, but it’s also bullshit. Ayyadurai has been given the heckler’s veto and will likely crow about how this vindicates him. He’s tried to twist a variety of other things as “proof” that he’s the inventor of email. As of writing this he hasn’t said anything on his Twitter feed, other than to retweet someone saying “congratulations to [Shiva], inventor of email” and someone else tweeting about the Denton story. Of course, perhaps because he’s too busy promoting some sketchy “health” system and conspiracy theories about the election — oh, and also having conversations with confirmed asshole and colleague in bullshit, censorious lawsuits, actor James Woods.

So, not only is he not the inventor of email, he’s also pretty clueless about how polls work and basic statistics too. Seems like a real winner.

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Companies: gawker

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Comments on “Ridiculous: Nick Denton Settles Remaining Charles Harder Lawsuits, Agrees To Delete Perfectly True Stories”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ayyadurai is still relevant because now he has what amounts to a legal victory in his name—he got Gawker Media to pay him and delete posts that didn’t contain a single factual lie about him or his work.

Now he can use this victory to bolster any other case he might have going. Or to kickstart a new one against another media outlet that has long decried his bullshit.

A media outlet like, say, this one.

Scote (profile) says:

It seems awfully fishy for Charles Harder to settle multiple lawsuits against Gawker purportedly by different clients all at the same time. Why it’s as if there was actually one *real* client rather than a bunch of different clients… :-/

I wonder what the legal ethics would be if it were the case that Charles Harder was using the other plaintiffs as mere shams for real client at interest?

That One Guy (profile) says:

So about that...

I seem to recall more than once during the discussions of the abomination of ‘Right to re-write histroy’ over in europe that someone would throw out the idea that it might come to the US, another person would talk about how that simply couldn’t happen because of the first amendment…

This is basically the ‘Right to re-write history’ in the US. Being able to force someone to take down factual information because it’s too expensive to fight the lawsuit(s) to keep it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So about that...

How is that really any different? The only avenue to prevent the government from shutting down your speech is via the courts, which are run by the government. All it takes is for the government attorneys to price you out of the court costs. And when there’s no one bankrolling the government attorneys, because they’re on the government payroll, no one looks at it from the point of “I’ve spent enough on this and can’t afford anymore, let’s settle.”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So about that...

The court system also needs overhauling, it seems. But, if a private organisation is bullying you, it’s not a first amendment issue. The government are only involved to mediate a grievance between two private parties. As I understand it, it’s only if the government is the one bullying that it becomes a first amendment issue.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but that’s not really relevant to Howard’s question. Univision bought Gawker; it chose to shut down the main Gawker site but keep the other sites. The question is, would it be allowed, under the terms of the settlement, for one of those other sites to quote the original articles that Denton has agreed to take down?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Good

The Right to be Forgotten unless relevant public interest is involved is something that has been taking hold in Europe and should be enshrined globally.

Europe doesn’t have a First Amendment.

Nothing Gawker ever spewed out has met that bar because all they give a fuck about is who is sleeping with who, or who is gay in the closet that they can expose publicly.

That’s your subjective judgement and you’re entitled to it. But I don’t believe First Amendment exemptions should be subject to your personal opinions on what is or is not newsworthy.

If we removed First Amendment protection for everything I don’t believe is newsworthy, every cable news network and 20 minutes out of every 22-minute evening news broadcast would be gone. Fortunately, we have a First Amendment to prevent guys like you and me from making that decision for other people.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: How's that saying go again...?

First they came for people and/or companies I didn’t like, and I cheered them on like an idiot because screw them.

Then they went after people and/or companies I was indifferent to, and I shrugged my shoulders because eh, not my problem.

Then they went after people and/or companies I did like, and I objected but was ignored because someone else didn’t like them and the pattern had already been set that it was acceptable to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Chemotherapy can have unpleasant side effects. The world is still a better place with the cancer called Gawker sued into oblivion.

All this constant whinging about how Peter Thiel shouldn’t be able to bully poor ickle Gawker never fails to amuse me. What exactly do you propose to remedy his ability to do so? How would any of those proposed remedies not be infringing on Thiel’s free speech rights?

Seriously, I’ve yet to hear a single proposed solution to this non-troversy that wasn’t a cure worse than the disease.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:



Ah, I see you’re British. That explains your lack of understanding of our First Amendment.

What exactly do you propose to remedy his ability to do so?

Robust anti-SLAPP laws to defend against frivolous lawsuits that are designed to suppress free speech instead of being based on any legal merits.

How would any of those proposed remedies not be infringing on Thiel’s free speech rights?

Because vexatious lawsuits aren’t protected speech.

Now let me turn that around: how does allowing a billionaire to financially destroy a media company just because it pissed him off not infringe on free speech rights?

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