from the precedent-missing dept
We’ve covered the lawsuit over comments on the site AutoAdmit for the past couple years. The quick summary is that AutoAdmit is an online forum for law school students where, like many online forums, sometimes the conversations get pretty mean. Two female Yale law students sued the site and a bunch of anonymous commenters, after they posted some mean things about them. There’s no denying that the comments were pretty obnoxious, though it’s not clear that, given the context, anyone took them seriously. The women claimed that they had trouble getting jobs because of the comments, but there was little evidence to support that either. Still, you had a bunch of law students angry with each other, so of course lawsuits were filed — some very badly (such as against one of the guys who helped run the site and was clearly protected from liability).
Some were hoping that this lawsuit would create new rules concerning online defamation or other “mean” content online. For example, there’s been a push for a DMCA-style “takedown” system that would require sites to take down such content. However, in this case, it looks like no precedent will be set at all, as the parties have all settled and the terms of the settlement are confidential (found via Thomas O’Toole).
The issue is a tough one, certainly. It’s no fun to be on the receiving end of such speech — but should it be illegal or should there be an automatic takedown system on such content? That seems extreme and questionable when it comes to the First Amendment issue. In the end, I think the context of the content remains important — and content in such a forum, where it was pretty obviously ridiculous, is the sort of thing that’s better left ignored, rather than filing a lawsuit over it.