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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  • identicon
    Whoever, 2 Nov 2016 @ 11:13am

    Entitled, much?

    So someone who was recently railing against the fact that single-digit millionaires don't really have access to the courts used his money to roll over the rights of someone with less money than himself?

    Entitled, hypocritical asshole.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 12:42pm

      Re: Entitled, much?

      Supporting someone who failed to do any further work or innovate in the public email space. Complete non-entrepreneur except in the common space of being a professional troll and egomaniac.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 12:04pm

    Since I don't trust the Polls. Who will you vote for?

    This poll shows Trump winning by 50pts!

    To me, that sounds like "I don't trust statistics I didn't falsify myself."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Zonker, 2 Nov 2016 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      What one earth are you talking about? Everyone knows that internet polls are more accurate than election polls!

      I know this because my internet poll asked "Who was the inventor of e-mail?" and the internet's answer was "Boaty McBoatface".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 2 Nov 2016 @ 12:23pm

    V.A. Shiva
    Vindictive Asshat

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 12:26pm

    how is he still relevant? shouldn't he have dropped into obscurity like Ted "series of tubes" Stevens by now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      K`Tetch (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      TEd didn't so much 'drop into obscurity' as 'drop into a hole in the ground' (that sounded funnier until I remembered the details - he died in a plane crash in august 2010, and is now in Arlington national cemetery)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ed (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 9:08am

        Re: Re:

        May he rest in pieces :P

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:24pm

        Re: Re:

        After losing reelection due to a criminal conviction which was later (posthumously) overturned due to major prosecutorial misconduct.

        I'm glad he's no longer in a decisionmaking role, but I wish it hadn't happened the way it did. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, no matter how much I disagree with them politically.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 2:33pm

      Re:

      Ayyadurai is still relevant because now he has what amounts to a legal victory in his nameā€”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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:59pm

      Re:

      Because he has one 'accomplishment' to his name, and you better believe he's going to lie about it every single chance he gets. He's 'relevant' because his desperation to maintain his lie keeps him repeating it to anyone who will listen and more than a few who aren't interested.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scote, 2 Nov 2016 @ 1:26pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 1:36pm

    Well that's just depressing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:04pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 8:16pm

      Re: So about that...

      > Being able to force someone to take down factual information because it's too expensive to fight the lawsuit(s) to keep it up.

      The best legal system money can buy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 1:47am

      Re: So about that...

      As ever, the first amendment only applies to the government's ability to shut down your speech. Private corporations and rich people can get away with it as much as they want, so long as they can price you out of the court costs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 4:44am

        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."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 4:38am

    Things to keep in mind about Shiva Ayyaudrai

    1. He's a liar.
    2. He's a fraud.
    3. He's a con artist.
    4. He did not invent email. He had zero role in it and none of his work is worth anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Synonymous Howard (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:32am

    So how long until a Gawker editor files another story about Ayyadurai where they get to quote their original story from the lawsuit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Zarvus (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      Um, never? Gawker.com's been shut down directly due to all of this. It's been sued out of existence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 3 Nov 2016 @ 12:17pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CFGX (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 10:00am

    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. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 3 Nov 2016 @ 12:22pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 3:20am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 2:06pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 3 Nov 2016 @ 4:45pm

      Re:

      whinging

      ickle

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    no name, 12 Jan 2017 @ 12:27am

    crowfund

    I'll be happy to donate some money for a legal defense fund, and I'm sure many more people would. Please consider the idea of setting up a crowfund! Many love techdirt, truth or both

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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