IMO at the very least the case is a lot more nuanced than you're making it out to be. For example: the fired professor was propagating conspiracy theories about Seth Rich. From the free speech angle, sure, she's free to say whatever she wants. But if you're a journalism professor and you aren't able to tell when something being propagated in the media is a baseless conspiracy theory, what does that say about your ability at your job? And as a teacher? It is not flat out wrong to fire someone for engaging in actions that cast doubt on their professionalism. At the very least it's open for debate.
I think there's an interesting debate to be had over her having done this anonymously: if she separated it from her professional persona is she less culpable in a professional sense? Personally I'd still argue no, but I think this is why she's targeting the Lab and not her employer: it's a lot easier to argue that unmasking her (thus combining her anonymous and professional identities) was wrong than to argue that firing her was wrong.
It seems their argument is going to be centered around one particular post expressing an anti-Muslim sentiment. Benton said she wrote it, she said she did not, thus he defamed her. All the posts were made under the same Disqus account so she might have a hill to climb in proving that it wasn't her. I'm very far from a lawyer but this feels like a case designed to set the professor up as a cause célèbre on the right rather than one designed to win.
Yes, I'm sure she would love to sue the university too. However she likely doesn't have a case there.
I hope she wins the lawsuit because they sloppily doxxed her and broke the terms of service of Disqus in doing so.
> Viola acknowledged writing most of the posts. But she denied being behind the anti-Muslim screed. That was critical to Sorokin’s decision to allow the libel and defamation part of Viola’s suit to proceed. The former professor “has plausibly alleged that Benton may have been negligent in his failure to verify that she was the author,” the judge wrote. He also took note of how Benton managed to discover and reveal her identity. Viola wrote her comments “based on the promise that her user information would be used for ‘moderation purposes only,’ which was violated when Benton posted her information on Twitter,” Sorokin wrote.
Have you considered that if the standard for defamation were actually as you hope it is/should be, she'd get about a microsecond to enjoy her victory over Nieman Lab before being crushed by Seth Rich's family over her rumormongering in that case?
Being sloppy is indeed enough to be sued. If I started telling people "microtherion is a Nazi" - you could sue me without proving I knew you are not a Nazi.
… on a Motion to Dismiss, which means literally "if we take everything the plaintiff says as the gospel truth, and dismiss anything the defendant says, would the plaintiff have a case?"
> It's literally mentioned in the article.
The judge allowed some of the numerous claims to proceed to the next trial stage, while dismissing others outright.
If you follow the article's link to the ruling, you will find that actual malice is literally the standard applied to many of the counts, which were indeed dismissed at the Motion to Dismiss stage: "mere negligence or deviation from professional standards is insufficient to allege actual malice".
Whether that standard applies to the libel charge depends on whether the plaintiff is a public figure, which apparently in that state is never decided in the Motion to Dismiss stage. However, the next step is generally a Motion for Summary Judgment, and odds are good that she will be found a (Limited, at least) public figure, at which point the Libel, Defamation, Emotional Distress, and Tortious Interference counts are history.
> you could sue me
Anyone could sue anyone for anything. Would I win? I doubt it.
> I hope her lawsuit is very successful. She was clearly targeted, ostracized, and fired for speaking her mind.
Those two statements have no connection to each other, since the lawsuit has nothing to do with her being targeted, ostracized and fired, instead (as you say) it's about her being defamed.
actually maybe the targeted is in reference to Nieman.
I guess I see not a legal connection, but the kind of connection that people often make in informal speech.
For good reason, many wrong things are completely legal, and still should be condemned.
If you are a journalism professor and are unable to recognise disinformation when you see it (e.g. Seth Rich conspiracy theories) then it calls your job competency into serious question. Yes, the firing would make Temple a better place to learn.
> try to ignore everything that Weinstein has become since then
I feel like this is difficult to do. I'd sort of argue that "we caught a bad faith actor early" is a good thing. Maybe you could argue that Bret wouldn't be what he is today if he weren't fired, but I don't really find that convincing.
It's a violation of the TOS. The recourse is Disqus cuts the offender's access (either the individual or the institution) for violating the TOS.
1) a false statement purporting to be fact (he says she wrote what she says she didn't)
2) publication or communication of that statement to a third person (yes, the doxing)
3) fault amounting to at least negligence (maybe debatable, but he accused her of writing something knowing only that an account registered to her posted it. He never asked her about it and has already admitted fault in accusing her without asking.)
4) damages (yes, her career)
Legal consequences imply non-free speech; employment consequences are more complicated.
edit: Responding to dead response; not gonna vouch for you again with that attitude...
Every freedom has consequences. You've got the right to bear arms, but you can shoot yourself in the foot. You've got the freedom to move about the country, but you can miss your sister's wedding if you're in another state. You've got the freedom to vote, but your elected politician won't always vote in the way you'd like. You've got the right to drink and smoke, but you might get cancer or other diseases. You've got the right to piss off your friends by spouting off hot takes, and you might lose those friends if they don't like what you have to say.
The issue isn't exactly about free speech but discrimination. And this happens in a million other ways too: being overweight, having a certain accent, being shorter than average. The fact that people have to resort to a "free speech" defence is indicative of the problem. And, of course, there will be "consequences"...no-one doubts that are consequences for not being like other people.
And if someone is discriminating against another person in hiring (btw, inevitable...height/weight/accent, it is basically impossible to remove this, people are fairly safe on religion because no-one can tell what religion another person is without asking) then that is enough. There is no need to examine the person's statements and try to work out how they would behave in a hypothetical example (doing this is discriminating...you aren't judging a person on their actions but how you believe they would act in a hypothetical you invent...would you like to be judged this way?).
No, please read my comment more carefully, because I said none of that.
I don't believe that she did or didn't say anything. I said "alleged" and meant it -- I've read exactly one article about this person and never heard of her before.
I said that having a post like that under one's name could be used as evidence against their employer in the case of a Title VII claim. Not that it would definitely indicate that the poster is racist; not that the poster is "dangerous" -- I'm said that the poster could reasonably be viewed as a legal liability to their employer.
> you aren't judging a person on their actions but how you believe they would act in a hypothetical you invent...would you like to be judged this way?
Another example of non-free speech: if you admit to having done a crime, that will be used against you in court (note, the admission itself is not a crime -- but it is evidence). If you express intent to do a crime, and somebody alleges that the same crime happened, and you're placed at the scene of the alleged crime, then your expression of intent will be used against you in court. Whether or not I want that to happen to me is irrelevant. That's how the legal system works.
Freedom of association permits us to choose who we do and do not associate with based on that individual's own choices.
The important distinction is that you can be punished under the law for the intent + consequences of speech. For the fire example, if no one reacted at all to me yelling "Fire!", the state could not go after me. Now, if I caused a stampede or other behavior from those in the theater, I could be sued for various things (manslaughter if someone died, criminal mischief, or disturbing the peace).
It's also the same reason the government can go after mob bosses for hiring a hitman to kill someone. They just said something (like, "take that guy out"), which is just speech. But if the actions that resulted in the speech can be directly connected, you can get in trouble for it.
EDIT: To make clear here, intent and consequences matter here. It's why you rarely see cases against speech brought, as intent must also be clear and provable in court.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
There can be, and are, private consequences to speech. I may not invite you back for dinner for example, other consequences may be more impactful.
That the COVID virus leaked from a lab was branded as a conspiracy theory - until now all of the sudden it isn't.
Censorship is a "cure" far worse than the problems it purports to fix. Even worse is using such flimsy pretexts to FIRE someone.
That people are so casual in accepting ruining peoples live's for simply having the wrong GROUPTHINK is utterly mind boggling to myself. Sadly the "smarter" one seems to think they are the more susceptible they seem to be in rationalizing away any concerns that should be firing off in their little heads.
Those ignorant of history doomed to repeat it and all that :(
Let's say someone, call them Frank, expresses on twitter that he thinks women aren't fit for work outside the home and his coworkers discover he said this. At the very least, Frank's female coworkers will almost certainly not feel comfortable working with him anymore knowing his opinions. They're unlikely to believe he respects them, and since they don't believe that they likely won't want to collaborate with him. If Frank's work requires collaboration (as most does), he's now hamstrung himself at work.
From the employer's perspective: Frank is now less effective at work. Frank's coworkers who are uncomfortable may try to leave teams Frank is on, or avoid work that might force them to collaborate with Frank. The result is organizational chaos and Frank becomes a drag on the company.
The natural response here, I think, is to let Frank go. It's hard to avoid it because there aren't just social pressures to fire him, but economic ones.
The above isn't a thought experiment, I've watched more than one version of the above happen. I just don't really see how this separation can be maintained.
I think there are real societal costs to encouraging the removal of anonymity, especially using less than ethical methods and more especially when it causes real harm to people. In this case it was perhaps just losing a job, but often it results in significant risks of real physical harm.
how and why?
we all hold crazy opinions. as long as “Frank” has a proven record of successfully working with women, what exactly is the problem?
throughout my career i’ve been working with some crazy individuals. their opinions were expressed in non office settings. then at work they were basically the antithesis of what they were preaching in private.
the gist is easy to understand: as long as your opinions don’t affect your work, why should anything like this matter?
> how and why?
My post specifically mentions how social media makes this difficult, so that's one way. Rumor is another, but that has existed for as long as we've had workplaces and has not had the same effects, so I presume most people are worried about, again, social media.
> as long as “Frank” has a proven record of successfully working with women, what exactly is the problem?
Feelings are not always rational, knowing he holds those opinions will make many people viscerally uncomfortable and they will act on it. Whether you think they should react that way, people do, moralizing the issue doesn't solve it. If you disagree with that, I don't think it's a difference we can resolve here.
I also think whether Frank has had a proven record of successfully working with women isn't something we can know, and I think others share this view. For example if Frank is in a hiring position he may have passed on female candidates because of his views, or he may not have. No one can verify the details. Frank knows we can't verify the details. Frank may only be acting on his views when he's confident no one can credibly accuse him.
This all sounds overwrought, but people really do get caught in these game theory thought experiment quagmires wondering whether Frank or someone like him have or will hurt someone and decide "I don't want to deal with this person". Which leads back to the social dysfunction I described above.
This doesn't really answer your question of "why does it matter," but I bet that if some of the crazy individuals you worked with had posted their opinions somewhere that people could see them, they would have been fired too.
Someone on twitter tells them?
And that our culture of 2 income households and every woman wants to be in STEM to build ad products is a flawed concept. We want all genders to be technically competent but we want a resilient, self sufficient world, that doesn’t have to ‘capitalize’ on every human ambition/potential.
Except we live in a world where me saying that makes me sexist. And worthy of doxxing.
Sure, I'll agree if the comments were stated in a private setting and limited to a group which knew each other. Unfortunately this is not that. This is analogous to a person standing in the middle of a market square with a megaphone and a hood over them to hide their identity.
Given that, it is only natural for the people who are opposed to the person's views to want to know who that person is in case that is a person who they interact in real-life and might be in a position of influence.
This applies to any kind of opinion and not just right leaning.
BTW, if we want to allow them to have their free speech, doesn't free speech protect the other side too, Neiman Lab in this case? If the opinions expressed by the person deserve protection, the right of others to investigate and present their findings should also be preserved.
He wasn't investigating. He was canceling somebody who criticized him.
In violation of his own promises both to Disqus and to the woman whose job he destroyed.
A) A journalist brought light to the comments made by a journalism professor.
B) Said journalism professor's employer chose to fire her for those comments.
Now, I think there is little room for taking issue with point A. If we're at the point where Journalists can't discuss the views of people in their own space, I have very little hope for a future environment of open and honest discourse.
On point B, I think there are many views people can hold which justify firing someone. The only question is where you draw the line. If an employee was actively spreading hateful messaging concerning a coworker in their own time, away from work, I think most people would agree firing that person is an acceptable course of action (I understand that wasn't the case here).
I also think there are a great number of people that believe pushing hateful discourse, even on your own time means that you are unfit for the workplace given that those views aren't conducive to a healthy work environment.
In this case they were pushing some rather racist discourse. They said in response to an article about Muslims "Scum. Deport them. They hate us. Get rid of them."
Obviously the point where you draw the line on acceptable discourse is in degrees, with active harrassment/hate of coworkers on one end, active hate towards a general group in the middle, and some kinds of conspiracism on the other.
Where you draw the line is open for discussion, but lets not pretend it's not acceptable to have a line at all.
Other people are pointing out that Joshua doxxed Francesca using priveleged information from their Disqus platform. While I think that's condemnable, I find it largely immaterial to how Francesca's employer chooses how to react.
He said the US deserved 9-11 and so on.
This professor was protected by the university in spite of calls to have him fired because they said the university needs diverse voices, even if they are violent and they would protect his 1A rights...
Things have changed...
But his essay was kind of ignored until 2005. Then CU Boulder investigated him for academic misconduct and fired him. The committee concluded it wasn't serious enough to fire him, and he later successfully sued the university for firing him. Media was reporting on his firing as having major free speech implications.
Academic misconduct should be punished. But to me it looks like one of the major motivations for his firing was his extremely offensive comments.
Let me get this straight: someone who expressed hateful left-leaning political opinions was _not_ fired, and then later someone who expressed hateful right-leaning political opinions _was_ fired? What changed, exactly?
I think that is a significant shift (even if yes, we do see a free pass for the likes of Sarah Jeong for example.
It's frightful to see that defending the 1A on principle is seen as an endorsement of objectionable views.
Most of the rest of it seems like bog-standard US political polarisation, and if she didn't write the bigoted stuff…
It's Disqus; it doesn't work like that. Anyone can use any username.
> So she wrote all of the borderline bad things
I like them as much as you do (possibly less), but a large proportion of the US population has been radicalised in this way. It's not so cut and dry as I'd like these situations to be. (I'd delete that kind of thing if I were moderating, though; that's an obvious thing to do.)
Is this what they were referring to?
> Usernames must be unique and can only be registered by one commenter at a time. If you are seeing this message, it means your desired username is already taken, and you should try registering a different name.
The journalist didn't just google that username and assume everything he read was from her or something, he simply clicked on her linked account in the Disqus system and read/screenshot what else she posted. She's obviously lying when she said that the racist comments, but only the racist ones were written by someone else.
If she could bring someone who would say "Yes, I wrote that on her account" or show that the time of the comment she was teaching or something - I think that would be pretty compelling.
Nah, if you click through a username, you can see where else they commented if they're logged in. And the chances of her leaving comments with that login at Breitbart / Drudge Report but not Gateway Pundit are so vanishingly small to not even consider.
But yeah, most of her really off-the-rails stuff was at properties the Nieman Labs guy didn't control so he couldn't delete, it seems like she wrote dumb nonsense on his page partially identifying herself and then he just clicked through to read the rest of her garbage she was writing all over the internet about every silly right-wing conspiracy theory du jour.
• the employee's speech addresses a matter of public concern.
• their free-speech interests outweigh their
employer’s efficiency interests.
The comments do seem to be on a matter of public concern, which is typically interpreted quite broadly. The criteria used to assess these efficiency interests include whether the speech:
• Impairs discipline or harmony among co-workers.
• Has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary
• Interferes with the normal operation of the employer’s business.
Any litigation over this firing would focus on whether these are real factors that would disrupt teaching, or whether the university officials are just punishing her for her politics. The specific tweets are presumably not directed against any individuals who are at the college, and do not involve the college's normal operations. This does undermine the case somewhat.
You can't fire them for the speech - which is of course protected - but you can fire them because they can't possibly be qualified to hold their position while holding/espousing those views. Unless there's a specific state law protecting employees from off-duty conduct (Pennsylvania doesn't have one), employees can certainly be fired.
I would think that she would want to prove that statement falsely attributed first in a defamation suit before going after the university.
The test above is correctly quoted, the only dispute is factual which none of us here has the evidence to resolve. She may be lying or telling the truth, but we can't make any grand pronouncements about whether the university was right or wrong on the basis of disputed factual claims that have yet to be resolved in court.
And it's the one comment she says she didn't make.
I wonder if her lawyer has seen this story? Many of the comments here could be helpful in showing damages.
Really? There's very little hope for an environment of open and honest discourse without doxing people?
Doxxing people is condemnable, journalists discussing each others views alone is not.
It's also used in virtuous ways; for example, to determine whether what appears to be grassroots activism is astroturfing (https://www.businessinsider.com/astroturfing-grassroots-move...).
Some of the worst I've seen was under their real names (including one I knew as a leadership role in a local Scouting group, and another prominent local businessman) on Nextdoor.
That's better described as religious intolerance, not quite the same as racism per se. Not that this makes the attitude any less problematic, far from it. OP is ironically projecting her own attitude onto Muslims by saying that they all hate us for not sharing their religion.
If we're going to call that population limited, then yeah I'd agree
Why were Muslims protesting in front of Trump Tower? Seems like Trump was like the first President in decades not to Bomb the shit out of one of their countries of origin. Trump had one the lowest Muslim body counts since last century.
Perhaps her comment was all about perceived ingratitude.
I've come across this before, were Americans think other countries should be grateful that they don't get bombed.
He also seems to have done this in retaliation towards legitimate commentary and criticism of a Nieman Lab article. If there's anything that makes his behavior especially reprehensible, surely this must be it. And this also implies that her lawsuit might actually have some merit to it.
How so? It's a defamation suit so the criteria are pretty clear and as far as I'm aware whether it was revenge or not doesn't have any bearing.
She's either telling the truth or she's gambling that he overplayed his hand, doesn't have hard evidence to link her to those comments, and (in the context of a civil suit, which is what defamation is) lacks the resources to prove his case with preponderance of evidence. In which case, he'll be liable for damages and have to pay to "make her whole" (which could be quite a bit if she can convince the court she lost her job because of the things she's alleged to have said in that one set of comments she's suing over).
Either that or maybe she can demonstrate how his actions caused her harm without her harming him, but his actions were only possible as an employee of Neiman labs.
I think what will most likely happen is he will be fired and she will get an undisclosed settlement.
However that wasn't what I was taking issue with in the parent comment.
I think it's reasonable to expect however that:
- Journalists should be able to discuss each others views
- People who work at tech platforms should not dox their users (without a warrant)
- There is an acceptable point where an employer can fire their employees for what views they express in their private life.
So in all, is what Joshua did wrong here? I'd say so, but only because he doxxed a user.
Is what the University did wrong here? It sucks where the information came from, but probably not. But even if you were to argue that there was, I find what Joshua did here to be largely immaterial towards that point, it's only how her employer chooses to react that is relevant.
But I can say that an unethical decision on the part of one party spurred on an ethical response from another.
If a robber breaks into a house a pedophile and discovers illicit material, are the police unethical for following up on that lead?
Abusing one's admin position to dox someone is not really distinguishable from any principled position against publishing hacked information.
It's weird to me that this ethical consideration seems to be something that can be ignored whenever convenient.
That probably shouldn't rise to a CFAA violation, but there was a supposed ethical standard around publishing hacked information, so it's a bit weird to see that ethical consensus come and go so easily.
I won't speak to the legality of it because I'm not qualified, but it's morally reprehensible.
He could have
1. Taken offense to this comment/taken interest in what else this user comments (which you can do without any admin tools)
2. Seen the islamophobic/xenophobic comment
3. De-anonymized the user
In this version the de-anonymization is related to the more repugnant comments, not the initial critique.
Take the internet away and it's even more obviously protected. If you ran a newspaper and occasionally published letters from readers, and if a racist letter showed up with a vaguely obfuscated address that was easily traceable, it would be well within your rights to write an article about the person in a position of power who sent your newspaper racist rantings.
The journalist likely violated Disqus's terms of service but in no way does that give the professor grounds to sue him.
I've been surfing everything from Usenet to webboards and other internet comment facilities for 25 years, how come I've never seen it? Typically the routine goes: cosmetic blocking (hiding, disemvoweling), account block, email block, ip block, then whack-a-mole for the truly persistently annoying.
Have you, and can you link to it if so?
There's a reason certain forms of evidence are inadmissible in court.
(The professor's also at fault for not anonymizing herself better, of course.)
A professor naturally speaks with the authority of their corresponding institution, whether they or the institution likes it that way. A professor is also often in a position of leadership as they supervise the fate of students.
Does she though? She had every reason to believe her choice of email address would remain private.
By a similar token, I am currently working for <REDACTED> (on lunch break) and using a computer belonging to said entity. If you managed to work out what <REDACTED> is, would I retroactively be considered to be speaking for it?
Credibility and reputation aren't precisely in anyone's hands.
The underlying issue for the university is whether she can effectively teach Muslim students when she thinks they're "scum" who should be deported. And, will Muslim students be comfortable signing up for her class now, or has she effectively steered them away with her racism? Regardless of how it came to their attention, the university undoutedly has some kind of zero-tolerance policy against racism.
Generally I agree with your sentiment, but I think this case squeezes into that small "little to zero" impact section.
The article says that she denies writing that exact comment and that is in fact part of why the lawsuit has been permitted to go forward.
The court called her allegations "plausible" (though that's a far cry from "true"), and the article also says that Benton posted an apology: "By revealing such details without making an effort to contact her and seek confirmation and explanation, and otherwise adhere to rigorous reporting methods, the tweets did not meet Nieman’s journalistic standards. I apologize and regret my error in judgment."
So it seems to me that Benton has already admitted failing to validate this information, thus I'm reluctant to take it as given.
That aside, if comments here are any indication, she's screwed even if this isn't true. Half of the posters here appear unaware that she denies making that comment.
Comments like those can be used as evidence of damage to her reputation should she win.
Do you have insider information about the case, or is this your synthesis? The former strikes me as being unlikely, because you seem to have missed that the cornerstone of the suit is the claim that she's not actually the one responsible for the anti-Muslim comment, which is what makes this defamation.
If someone says they don't trust / like people of a particular race, and they're in a position where they are expected to work with those folks. That certainly has something to do with their job.
That's not threatening or violent, but as an employer I don't think you can ignore it / tell everyone at that workplace "well she didn't say it here so guess you have to ignore it...".
Ultimately almost every job involves working with people, and you don't get to pick and choose who that is.
i’m a contrarian. i will argue against you on pretty much any subject in order to bring out the best arguments. are you still so certain my contrarian opinions will have something to do with my job?
This argument used to be used to fire gay people from engineering jobs. Because being gay was obviously very bad and you can’t possibly have good judgement if you’re gay.
Being gay and racist have obviously different implications on your workplace behavior and biases. The issue is that precedent is precedenty. If we normalize firing people for their personal life issues, where do we stop?
In some cases the answer is obviously yes. Off-duty cops committing crimes, not good. A politician or judge might never be fully off-duty.
Where is the line for professors? Naked pics with their spouse? Orgies? Racist tweets? Racist comments at a friend’s barbecue? Being a spy for China?
What about for regular employees. Fired when they speak against the company? When they complain about toxic work environment? Or just if they say something racist? What if they’re asian and say a racist joke at a party? Or an ardent feminist with edgy views against men? How about an angry father who got his kids taken away and now says mean things about women?
If we normalize these firings for saying things we don’t like, others will want to normalize them for things we do like.
I think this is probably the median perspective.
For example, firing people for joining the KKK is a good way to reduce their ability to recruit and radicalize others.
But under American law you can be generally fired for no reason, so it's weird we are even having this conversation in the land of no job security.
> In her suit, Viola acknowledged writing most of the posts
I'm as pro-free-speech as the next person, but looking at the evidence I frankly don't understand on what leg Viola is hoping to stand. If I understand this right, she's claiming she is the person behind the truthseeker username on Gateway Pundit, but that she didn't write a specific comment that was entered into evidence as being written by truthseeker? How does that not scream lying to evade responsibility?
Also, IMHO, the repercussions on her job are not really relevant to the suit. Had Benton outed her for spamming pictures of unicorns, her job would've been just fine. It's her own alleged content that got her into hot water with her employer. Benton has no control over her employer's actions.
 https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/59725194/8/4/viola-v-be... (page 5)
You indeed can post things outside of a professional setting which demonstrate that you aren't appropriate for your job. A journalism professor commenting on the news isn't exactly unrelated activity.
This is indeed close to the edge of what would be appropriate but it would seem that what she said went beyond opinion and perspective and well into a questionable relationship with the truth and hate speech.
A professor should be held to a high standard of rationality and posting things online, even anonymously, should be able to be taken into consideration.
So we have journalists who see it in their purview to frame things to fit their objectives as they envision them.
We also had someone at the NYT who said what is in this age called hate speech against a majority “color” but wasn’t fired for those comments. So it’s indeed one sided.
No. "Free speech" is not a get out of jail free card.
I think there may some narrow grounds for a lawsuit here, but it's not about free speech, it's about piercing pseudo-anonymity.
The suit itself isn't purporting to make any claims about the ethical or legal dimensions of using the information available to find someone in the way it was used, only that statements were attributed which the plaintiff did not make.
In other words, you're stripping the rights of some to enhance the rights of others, which is rarely intended, but still something that has to be recognized.
Big claims, iff true.
Calling an ethnicity of people "scum" and to "deport" them is harmful behavior. Every time something like this comes up the actual matter gets downplayed as if it were "just a comment". When this individual quite literally is being 100% racist with intent to cause harm. Perhaps were all too young to remember what happens when people like that group together.
I could create an account on a multitude of services call “TOMDM” Top of your bio, and say some truly horrible things. Your job or employer comes to you and says why would you say these things and you say hey that wasn’t me, someone took a name that I was using on another service. Well I’m sorry, we have to let you go. Now it’s up to you to pursue civil litigation probably in order to identify the person who was actually using that handle, so you could then go back to your former employee and say your termination of me was unjustified.
That’s what I’m seeing here, a claim without proof Which has led to someone’s loss of employment. I’m bothered by that and I think we all should be.
From how many jobs tho. This happened in 2017. The problem is there's no statute of limitations on moral outrage, so if acting on it is justified, the punishment would effectively be a jobless life.
And I think that's a little excessive.
To make this discussion easier, lets consider just the comments in isloation, and assume they're all verified (like most would as an employer, to do otherwise would bring extra risk on yourself)
If you're employing Muslims, then in this case, she's probably unemployable by you until she can demonstrate reform of some kind to an extent where both she and others in the workplace can collaborate effectively.
However, as a journalist it depends on your outlet.
Some may look at her conspiracism, and decide that to get to that point alone she's probably not a very good journalist and would again need to demonstrate some sort of pivot in her decision making that lead her to that point.
On the other hand, there are probably some right wing outlets that would look at her and decide she's a great journalist based on those comments, and that her decision making is on point.
Whether this is good or ideal is another matter.
It comes down to how much you want the government involved in businesses ability to freely associate.
that is a very good point and I don't know why you're being downvoted for it.
still, is the business freely deciding not to associate with the person, or is the mob forcing the business hand?
I'd hope that there was some formal process her employer undertook in order to meet their own bar, wherever that was set, rather than letting an external party set the narrative entirely.
That aside, I think your initial comment may have been a tad dismissive of the idea that such an investigation could have taken place, especially considering she was fired a year after the controversy started.
> I don’t agree with her statement, but academia is poisoning free speech under the guise of righteousness.
Being a Muslim has nothing to do with ethnicity.
Speaking her mind was the not the issue. The issue is draining the credibility of the institution. The academic institution she hails from, Temple University, has their own interests to watch out for, she did not sue them.
And Benton’s actions seemed at odds with Disqus’s own policies, which state that “user information is for moderation purposes only” and adds that “distribution of personal identifiable information is prohibited.”
Imagine if we discovered all those accounts…
And suing the website for exposing your racism? Why would she think she has any right to anonymity while spewing trash on someone else's platform?
Except this has always been the case. What you do outside your work has always affected your ability to maintain employment. The difference is that now those who benefited from this in the past are now suffering from it.
> She was clearly targeted, ostracized, and fired for speaking her mind.
No, this is literally not what happened. I can point to numerous cases of people speaking their mind without suffering from repercussions.
Pretending this was about someone "speaking their mind" ignores the reality and nuances of what is actually happening.
Some people, for instance, would find (making up a hypothetical) it “harming” if a large strong person spent spare time drawing incredibly graphic representations of smaller weaker coworkers being sexually assaulted by him. Others believe that no harm has been caused.
Hopefully, in that situation you can see both sides of the argument. Now you can weaken that to whether referring to Muslims as people who should be deported is similarly a point where people can disagree.
For my part, I believe in the freedom and liberty. No one has the right to have their stuff bought by someone. Temple doesn’t have the right to have students go to them. If they feel like they have to fire people in order to appeal to people, they should be permitted to. If they feel like they would rather lose customers than professors, that’s fine too.
Unlike California, which believes that political opinion should be a protected class, I prefer the federal system.
Remember this guy?
To be fair, I don't know how representative the student news site is of journalism students. But I also don't really think you can make a "right way to live" argument for someone who admitted to and apologized for wrongdoing.
Of course I can. Just because he apologized doesn't mean he was wrong.
edit: commenting platform of a _journalism_ organization! Journalists should know better than _anyone_ how important anonymous communication is.
If you want to argue that he was just doing what he thought was right, fine. But I think that they should update their organization's website to include something along the lines of "we think journalism is important, unless we disagree with what you're saying."
She's claiming that Benton misattributed the Islamophobe comment "Scum. Deport them. They hate us. Get rid of them.” to her, despite it being from the same disqus account.
If you want to drag morality into it to take the moral high ground, at what point does making bad faith arguments in civil court cross the line too?
I personally think the university had every right to fire her. I also think that what Benton did was extremely unethical, especially because he works for a journalism organization.
I’d agree that engagement with folks offering disagreeable ideas is the right thing to do when done in the moment with a spirit of empathy and learning. But doxing ain’t calling someone out. It’s more akin to gossiping behind someone’s back and acting as if a person at their worst was all there was.
She got canned, he got sued, lawyers won.
Exceptions tend to center around safety of the speaker and massive and obvious power imbalances.
For example, in this case the claim on the table is one of the statements attributed to Viola was not made by her. She hasn't sued over the rest of the statements attributed to her and she hasn't sued over the university's right to terminate her.
Doxing that lady was a mistake and the dude apologized for it. Unfortunately the bell can’t be unrung and the story continues to the dreary part where nobody wins but the lawyers.
I don't agree with Viola, but if she's able to live under the radar then more power to her. Frankly, people on the "fake news" side of US politics usually can't keep quiet, so let's maybe even commend her for her discretion.
But Benton's acts were worse, WAY worse. Not worse than being a fake-news Republican, but worse than simply being a shithead on Twitter.
Isn't that anchoring bias? For starters, why equate firing with punishment? Firing an employee is a discretion of an employer meant to be used if they deem that the employee did not fulfill duties adequately, it's not really supposed to be a vehicle for mob appeasement.
More generally, I take issue with this idea that doing something bad ought to result in career ruin. Like, is the undertext that they ought to gtfo of their field of expertise and go flip burgers or something instead? I feel like there ought to be better ways to address conduct issues that doesn't involve messing w/ people's livelihoods (twitter lynching is not any better, to be clear)
IMHO, it'd be more conducive to a healthy society if we defaulted to talking about remediation strategies in the workplace, like three-strike systems, clearer public comm policies etc than defaulting to tearing people down.
On the other hand, she used her Temple email for the Disqus account and used it to comment on a different university’s journalism lab website, while openly admitting to being a journalism professor. We can question whether it was ethical for Benton to reveal who she was on Twitter (tho I would hardly call this “doxxing” as he didn’t reveal her phone number or address), especially without reaching out for comment first, but I don’t see anything illegal about it.
The fact that she is suing Nieman and not Temple makes it clear she has little basis for anything, in my opinion. She was an assistant professor and almost certainly didn’t have tenure (or else she wouldn’t have been fired) and was, given the amount of time she had been at Temple, probably never even going to approach getting tenure. She used her work email to register for a pseudonymous account; there should be no expectation of that email address being private to the site owners or administrators. That’s something a longtime journalism professor (and professed attorney) should know.
Moreover, her claims that she didn’t write the worst comment are just laughable. That isn’t how Disqus works. It also doesn’t matter here. It was entirely reasonable and in good faith to assume that comments made under the linked account at websites, where by her own admission she made comments, were by her.
Reading the judge’s decision not to dismiss, the only reason the suit wasn’t dismissed is because at this stage, the judge assumes everything written in the complaint is true. I don’t at all expect this case to survive much further, nor for it to be decided in her favor.
Putting the legal issues aside, I do think it is fair to find what Benton did to be in poor judgment. He should have reached out for comment first — or really just let it go. Let people have bad opinions. But I hardly think he did anything worthy of a lawsuit.
As for Temple, well, she didn’t have tenure and she embarrassed the school. It seems entirely reasonable for them to not renew her contract. But as I said above, she’s not suing them. She’s suing Harvard and Benton.
I wouldn’t have done what Benton did, but I am also not overly sympathetic to someone who decided to use their work email to shitpost and then got called out.
Was what Benton did unethical? Without reaching out for comment first, I think it probably was. At the very least, it was punching down and unnecessary. Should he be sued for defamation? I don’t think so.
In this case, from what I can see, the claims were largely true. You can't successfully sue for defamation of statements that are just true. Then, even if there are claims that aren't true, you have to prove the untrue statement wasn't an opinion and that it was made with the intent to say an untrue thing as if were fact in order to damage you.
EDIT: A poster below pointed out that you to make claims statements that you knew were false; there is also standing if you didn't know they were false but you didn't confirm if they were true in a manner deemed as "reckless" by the court. I believe this is a lesser burden than I described above, but still a very high bar.
> In her suit, Viola acknowledged writing most of the posts. But she denied being behind the anti-Muslim screed. That was critical to Sorokin’s decision to allow the libel and defamation part of Viola’s suit to proceed. The former professor “has plausibly alleged that Benton may have been negligent in his failure to verify that she was the author,” the judge wrote.
If she can prove that it wasn't her/Benton can't prove that it was her (I'm not familiar with the legal system, so I don't know which it would be), then there would indeed be an untrue statement. As for damage; why does anyone dredge up another's darker side, if not to damage them in some way? I can't think of another motive for doing so.
Maybe you can say that she isn't notable enough that it would be valuable as news, but I don't think that standard would be hit there are a lot of reports now about Karens and such, and her being a professor adds some umph.
To confront them with the harms of their "darker side", with hopes that they will have a change of heart and desire to reform. But.. that's often misguided if one does this in public before at least making an attempt in private.
Even for public figures where the NY Times v. Sullivan “actual malice” standard applies, intentional/knowing falsity is not required; reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statement is sufficient for actual malice.
It’s much more relaxed: “cannot have acted negligently in failing to ascertain whether the statement is true”
To me the more interesting problem is him using his workpace Discuss mod privileges to first ID her, and then posting to his personal twitter - which seems like it's not an official org piece of reporting. At least that's what I'm reading I think - it very well could have been possible for him to ID her without that admin info?
So maybe Benton is in violation of his work's policy.
I agree though even if it wasn't true wouldn't it have to be malicious intent to cause harm?
I would probably care more about their claims and complaints if they were not so transparent about the fact that their real complaint is that people who they look down on are now in a position to judge and ostracize them.
Colin Kaepernick's situation reveals the hypocrisy, just a couple years ago.
But basically they ignored the basics of journalism not verifying the sources. Nice.
About the downvoting, this is HackerNews, I can live with that :-)
I'm using that as a filter to see who didn't read the article.
Civil suits hinge on a preponderance of evidence ("who has more"), and if "same email" is all Benton had to go on, that might not be enough to surmount "anybody could have done it," regardless whether she did actually write it.
Benton didn't know for sure, apparently didn't care that he didn't know for sure, then went ahead and stated something as fact that he didn't actually know. Heck, Viola might be able to find a route to actual-malice via the apparent recklessness of an actual trained journalist (and beyond...) making an assumption about someone else that could have life-altering consequences.
Maybe don't write hate speech if you don't want to be held accountable for it. Seems simple enough. Or at least a trained journalism professor should know how to better anonymize their hate speech. I have no sympathy for her being held accountable for her writing.
It's not clear to me that it's even the same "truthseeker", it could be a different spelling, etc.
They never contacted her to verify she was the person behind the email and the person that wrote comments in social media. They assumed it was her, but they did not verify it. Even a high school journalist knows this is the first rule to learn: if you assume = ass for you and me.
Francesca got exactly what she deserved.
This is a site where we discuss about privacy in technology, and this is an example of how people with privileged access to PII should follow the higher standards, no matter how disgusting are the opinions, like the ones from Francesca.
And the agreement between Disqus and a university lab isn't law.
The GDPR doesn't really apply here in the US. No part of this dispute happened in the EU or to EU citizens.