Over the weekend, it appears that someone at the Huffington Post finally realized that hoping the fuss over its entirely bogus "history of email" series would blow over wasn't going to happen. In case you missed it last week, we had called out Huffington Post for allowing Shiva Ayyadurai and his friends to post an entirely bogus
"history of email" series, all designed to make it look like Ayyadurai himself had invented email -- a claim he's been making for a few years, despite it being entirely false, based on totally misrepresenting a number of things, including what copyright means, misquoting a 1977 research paper and playing "no true scotsman" over what is a "true" email system. Despite the evidence of how wrong Ayyadurai and his friends were, HuffPo allowed the series to go on
with more false claims, and then told me it had "added a clarification"
that didn't clarify anything, but was a statement written by Ayyadurai, repeating the false claims. On Friday, we wondered how Huffington Post could justify
posting obviously false information.
It appears the powers that be at HuffPo finally realized that they had a problem.
All of the posts by Shiva Ayyadurai's friends, making the entirely false argument that he "invented email," have been removed from Huffington Post, redirecting people to this page
with the following text:
The post that previously appeared in this space -- part of a blogger-generated series on the history of email -- is no longer available. Readers and media commentators alerted us to factual and sourcing issues in the series and, after an internal review, we removed it from the site.
There are some interesting language choices there. First, note that they admit that it was a "blogger-generated series," which is an attempt to distance the fake series, put together by Shiva Ayyadruai himself with PR guru Larry Weber, from Huffington Post's journalistic "news" side. Ayyadurai and Weber had been banking on the fact that most people don't realize that the blogging side of HuffPo has no editorial controls to pretend that the series had some sort of journalistic credibility. They appear to be promoting the fake articles everywhere, and some of their supporters have been trying to use the Huffington Post series as credible citations for Wikipedia (amusingly, one of their supporters kept trying to reject others pointing to my detailed debunkings by saying it doesn't count since I'm just a blogger -- ignoring that Weber, Ayyadurai and their friends were using HuffPo's blogging platform as well).
Of course, what that note also (conveniently) leaves out is that it wasn't just the "blogger-generated series" that was the problem and has been taken down. HuffPo Live (part of its "journalistic" side) also did a long interview with Ayyadurai, and had articles written up by reporters like Emily Tess Katz (who continues to ignore every question asked about this), repeating ridiculous claims from Ayyadurai about how his critics are just racists who don't like the fact that a "dark-skinned immigrant boy" invented email. Of course the reality is that it has nothing to do with racism, but rather the facts -- which Huffington Post journalists apparently didn't even think were worth the trouble of a quick Googling, to find where all of Ayyadurai's claims had long since been debunked.
Finally, HuffPo didn't actually take down all such articles. There's a blog post from 2013 by Deepak Chopra and Ayyadurai making the same claims
that remains on the site. Ayyadurai is associated with Chopra and frequently uses his connection to Chopra as some sort of validation of his claims.
Amusingly, despite HuffPo PR people telling me to email them with any more questions last Wednesday, they ignored every question I sent them since then (with one exception which I'll get to below), and (of course) didn't bother to tell me they had pulled the series either, despite my sending a few questions about whether they intended to keep it up. Instead, a whole bunch of you -- the readers of this site -- let me know. It's almost as if HuffPo wished to sweep the whole thing under the rug.
Of course, one part of the problem may be that Ayyadurai is now claiming in the Economic Times of India that Arianna Huffington herself "commissioned" the series
after hearing Ayyadurai give a talk. I asked HuffPo PR (and Arianna directly) if that was accurate and (finally) HuffPo PR got back to me to say that (once again) Ayyadurai is lying, and that "neither HuffPost nor Arianna 'commissioned' Shiva's series."
In that same Economic Times article, there's also the absolutely hilarious claim from Ayyadurai suggesting that he's considering legal action against his "critics."
Shiva Ayyadurai, the man in the middle of a raging controversy over his claims of being the inventor of email, doesn't want to go legal on his detractors but is looking for support from the public. "Lawsuits take a long time. If I have to pull the trigger I will. But I have decided to go directly to the people," Ayyadurai said in an interview with ET.
First off, there is no "raging controversy." There's no controversy at all. Ayyadurai is simply making false claims and that's agreed upon by pretty much everyone who's looked at the evidence. Second, "going to the people" is great, but historically he's done that with clearly bogus claims -- such as misquoting Dave Crocker's 1977 research and pretending that his 1982 copyright on his EMAIL software is the equivalent of a patent for the concept of email. So it's pretty easy to counter that, since the facts are not on his side. As for the idea of a lawsuit, I would hope that any lawyer he discusses a lawsuit with takes the time to look at the details here -- and also understand the laws around SLAPP suits and the nature of the First Amendment. Because I may not be "the inventor of email," but I can guess that any such lawsuits won't end well for Ayyadurai.