Wednesday, October 28, 2009

XOXOHTH: Anthony Ciolli to Visit UVA Law

Anthony Ciolli - a former administrator of the autoadmit law school message board (aka xoxoxhth.com) - is coming to the law school next Monday at 5 PM in WB 126. Mr. Ciolli's talk is titled "The Internet and the Duty to Moderate", and given Mr. Ciolli's history, it's a subject he as a lot of experience with.

For those unfamiliar with the autoadmit affair, Ciolli - a law student at Penn at the time - was administrating the message board when anonymous commenters began to make extremely lewd. offensive, and often false comments about law students at a variety of schools, and used the forum to start a website called "T14 Talent," where pictures of women from all of the top 14 law schools (including Virginia) were posted and students could rate them.

Two of the students who were the target of such comments and whose pictures were posted decided to file a law suit, alleging copyright violations relating to the posting of their pictures on the T14 Talent site as well as claims relating to their harassment on autoadmit itself. The defendants were many pseudonymous posters (whose identities the plaintiffs - themselves proceeding anonymously - were eventually able to uncover). Ciolli was named as a defendant as well, despite the fact that § 230(c) of the 1996 Communications Decency Act says that website operators can't be held liable for what others post on their site.

In any event, Ciolli was eventually dropped from the suit, but not before the ensuing media firestorm caused him enough negative publicity for him to lose his job offer from his 2L firm. The plaintiffs dropped the suit not long ago after tracking down enough of their agitators and settling with them. And Ciolli also filed a suit against against the plaintiffs, alleging that he suffered due process violations, libel, and being publicly placed in a false light.

This is all a very rough synopsis of what occurred. Porfolio.com has a fantastic article on the entire saga, where you can read about the all the trouble Mr. Ciolli's site seems to have created. Really, it's a great read:
. . . . Many other websites control extremely salacious material either by using special coding to keep it to themselves (so that Google doesn’t pick it up) or by filtering it out, particularly if asked to do so. But AutoAdmit was a place, one poster told me, where you could tell someone to “fuck off and die” and not get banned. The site’s on-topic stuff was standard fare having to do with getting and succeeding. But off-topic threads were full of obscene bluster and ritualized intramural insult. Posters appeared to be overwhelmingly male; it was women, particularly beautiful women, particularly beautiful women at the top law schools, particularly beautiful minority women at the top law schools, who were most often skewered, dissected, and fantasized about.

Ciolli, who posted regularly, became Auto­Admit’s public face, although he insists he didn’t control what went—or stayed—up. Pleas to remove threads usually came to him; he’d generally pass them on to Cohen, and Cohen, who rarely posted on the site, would generally ignore them. To both, even its depravity was a public service. “One finds a much deeper and much more mature level of insight in a community where the ugliest depths of human opinion are confronted, rather than ignored,” Cohen wrote in a March 2005 email to Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA Law School and the author of a popular law blog.
Of course, as we often have to moderate the anonymous comments on this site, the subject is of great interest to us; you better believe that - barring softball playoffs - we will be there.

Related:
Online Message Board Targets Female Law Students [Law Weekly]
Two Lawyers Fight Cyber-Bullying [Portfolio.com]

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I never knew about this autoadmit site until I came to UVA Law, and I honestly wish I hadn't wasted those 2 minutes of my life 1L year browsing through such depraved garbage. It is absolutely terrifying that some of those people will one day be attorneys. Not simply because of what is written on that site, but because it just boggles the mind that these idiots - of all people - have not learned by now that the protection of "internet anonymity" is far from absolute. Good policy: If you wouldn't want yer mama reading it, don't write it!

justincredible said...

tl, dr

Rule 12 (f) said...

"tl, dr"

You should write that after exam prompts.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't in the initial notice, but Prof. White will actually be debating Ciolli on the issue of moderating an open forum. There will be some more details surfacing shortly.

Anonymous said...

I just started looking at autoadmit this year. I have seen a good deal of childishness, a fair amount of insight drowned, perhaps, by a larger amount of flat out wrong information or poorly informed advice, some decent humor, and random posts of just the N-word, which I just do not understand.

But personal attacks just don't seem to occur anymore.

So why do we need a duty to moderate if there are already have causes of action against the poster? They seem to have worked.

Also, a note to people from UVa Law who post there:

In every thread where the posters' schools are generally known, UVa students tend to be really, really embarrassing. Same in the comments on Above the Law. The aggressive displays of school pride that reek of an inferiority complex are the worst, I think.

Anonymous said...

"The aggressive displays of school pride that reek of an inferiority complex are the worst, I think."

stunningly perceptive

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about how this event got pulled together. Is Ciolli on tour? Book to follow? I'm not complaining; it should be very interesting; just curious; and that dude's suspect.

Anonymous said...

1xx of fat chick to attend?

justincredible said...

Rule 12(f):

would probably have a similar GPA if i had

Anonymous said...

Any truff to the rumor that UChicago Professor Brian Leittter will also be present at the debate?

Anonymous said...

Actually, 10:50, most of us from the xoxo of old now *are* attorneys. The profession hasn't imploded or anything yet.

Anyway, I'd just like to say the following:

EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

Anonymous said...

Why would GE White be debating this topic?

Anonymous said...

He does a lot on the first amendment.