Lawsuit Against 'Shitty Media Men' List Creator Can Proceed, Judge Says

A case against the creator of the "Shitty Media Men" list can move forward, per a federal judge's ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by one of the men named on the list. The next step in the case will involve an interesting dilemma involving the controversial federal law known as Section 230.
The lawsuit—brought by writer and director Stephen Elliott, best known for The Adderall Diaries—alleges that "Shitty Media Men" spreadsheet creator Moira Donegan and 30 "Janes Does" who contributed to the sheet are guilty of defamation due to claims made about him.
In 2017, Donegan created a Google spreadsheet where users could anonymously create reports about "shitty" men who they accused of behaviors ranging from rude comments to rape. The list circulated privately among a group of (largely) New York-based media women until word got out to the wider media industry. Eventually, the spreadsheet was covered in the press. On Elliott's entry, it said "rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion."
Federal Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall decided Monday to allow Elliott's case against Donegan to proceed, overruling her motion to dismiss.
The issue at stake this round was whether Elliott is a public figure. If so, the standard for proving defamation is higher, and the chances for Donegan's motion to dismiss would have been much greater. Hall ruled that Elliott is not a public figure for purposes of this case.
His "degree of involvement in a controversy surrounding sexual assault, sexual harassment and consent in the workplace, if any, is de minimis. Defendant directed the Court to only a few tangential references to sexual harassment or lewd jokes in the workplace in Plaintiff's writing and interviews," the judge writes. "And the Court is not willing to find that Plaintiff's more extensive writings and interviews about sex, BDSM, and sexual assault—unrelated to workplace issues—transforms him into a public figure with respect to the controversy here."
Donegan's motion to dismiss was denied and Elliott's case against her continues. Next up: figuring out what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has to say about all this. The judge asked both Elliott and Donegan to "proceed without delay to narrowly tailored discovery to address factual issues related to Defendant's CDA immunity defense."
Section 230 says "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
Donegan argues that Section 230 applies here because she, as the creator of the list, is the provider of an "interactive computer service" and should not be held legally liable for potentially defamatory shitty-men allegations made by others.

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"A committee spokesperson declined to comment on…whether the CEOs have agreed to appear in person or virtually," reports Politico. "It's also unclear whether the two sides have come to an agreement about the committee's demand for additional documents from the companies, which lawmakers have said are key to completing their investigation."

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