[SIGCIS-Members] Fall Updates on Ayyadurai and Techdirt

Subramanian, Ramesh Prof. Ramesh.Subramanian at quinnipiac.edu
Tue Oct 10 11:15:53 PDT 2017

Wow! That's all I can say about this fellow Tamil-Indian-American! Thanks for the update, Tom! I'm going to enjoy reading up all the details.


Ramesh Subramanian, Ph.D.
Gabriel Ferrucci Professor of Computer Information Systems
Quinnipiac University
Hamden, CT 06518.
Phone: 203-582-5276
Email:rameshs at quinnipiac.edu
Web: https://www.qu.edu/student-resources/directory/staff.23345.html
Fellow, Yale Law School - Information Society Project
New Haven, CT 06511
Email: ramesh.subramanian at yale.edu
Web: https://www.law.yale.edu/ramesh-subramanian
From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> on behalf of Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1:58 PM
To: members at sigcis.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Fall Updates on Ayyadurai and Techdirt


There have been some significant developments in the “inventor of email” saga since my last roundup, so as the list has now returned to life here’s a brief roundup of reporting for those of you not following obsessively.

Big news: on September 6 a judge granted summary dismissal of the $15 million libel lawsuit filed against Techdirt. According to reports, this was done on the basis that even if every factual claim in Ayyadurai’s complaint turned out to be fully supported by evidence, none of the alleged behavior would constitute libel. The judge noted that Ayyadurai’s claim is “incapable of being proved true of false” as claims to have produced the first of anything involve adopting a particular definition. By that logic Ayyadurai has a right to say he invented email, others have a right to disagree, and neither side has a right to sue the other for their opinions. Which seems reasonable to me. Many reports of this online, e.g. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/09/judge-dismisses-libel-lawsuit-filed-by-self-proclaimed-e-mail-inventor/.

The full ruling is at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3987555/Gov-Uscourts-Mad-185980-48-0.pdf.

Techdirt recently reported that Ayyadurai has notified the court of his intention to appeal. The same story mentions that Techdirt is appealing another aspect of the ruling: the Massachusetts judge’s refusal to apply California’s anti-SLAPP law to the case, under which a plaintiff might be liable for the legal costs of the defendant in a groundless lawsuit brought to silence critics.  https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20171006/11584638359/latest-shiva-ayyadurais-failed-libel-suit-against-techdirt.shtml  Ayyadurai’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has also promised to sue the New York Times for $50 million on behalf of Harvey Weinstein.

Before the case was dismissed, Ars Technica published a lengthy article including some email history and actual reporting -- including quotes from Ayyadurai himself (and from me). https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/06/shivas-war-one-mans-quest-to-convince-the-world-that-he-invented-e-mail/

In August, Techdirt had accepted a $250,000 donation to support its reporting on free speech issues. The money came from a variety of sources, including the Koch Foundation as well as more liberal groups, making for an interesting alliance. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/08/techdirt-accepts-250000-to-expand-journalism-on-free-speech-issues/?comments=1&post=33780449

Mike Masnick of Techdirt repeatedly chocked up as he described the effects of the lawsuit on his business and himself at the Personal Democracy Forum in June. https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/08/mike-masnick-personal-democracy-forum/ The talk highlighted Ayyadurai’s tweet ““#FakeNewsMedia like TechShit need to be shutdown for their FAKE NEWS.”

Meanwhile Ayyadurai’s quixotic senate campaign (slogan: “Only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian”) is proceeding energetically, including a spot keynoting the controversial Boston “free speech” rally held shortly after the Charlottesville tragedy. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/19/us/boston-free-speech-rally/index.html. He also received widespread attention for an ill-fated appearance with conservative radio host Howie Carr in which Ayyadurai repeatedly shouted variations on “It’s not about you or me, it’s about Elizabeth Warren” when asked about a 2005 arrest for domestic abuse. https://www.boston.com/news/politics/2017/07/23/watch-radio-host-howie-carr-and-republican-senate-candidate-get-in-on-air-yelling-match

Boston Magazine ran a closely reported feature on the campaign back in June, capturing Ayyadurai’s own perspective on the dramatic evolution of his political reviews from ultra liberal campus activist to “darling of the Breitbart set.”  : http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2017/07/09/shiva-ayyadurai/.

This has been your Fall update on the invention of email.

Best wishes,


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