Internet Law

Yale Law Students Start Naming Names in Suit Over Blog Posts

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Two female students at Yale Law School have begun identifying, in federal court papers, the defendants who allegedly posted vile comments about them under anonymous screen names on an Internet discussion board—and are unwilling to settle the lawsuit they brought as a result. The two students learned the posters’ names by subpoenaing Internet service providers.

A student at the University of Texas at Austin, Mathew C. Ryan, is the first to be unmasked, according to the Associated Press and Mark Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor who is representing the plaintiffs. Most of the other defendants are law students, Lemley says. Among the AutoAdmit posts that are at issue in the case are statements that identified women should be raped.

The prospect of the defendants being identified has elicited criticism from some, including a number of commenters on an earlier post about the case, which was filed in federal court in New Haven, Conn. Being known to have made such comments could harm the posters professionally, critics point out.

However, the plaintiffs say the AutoAdmit posts defamed them and were sexually harassing and threatening. Such posts can also have adverse professional consequences for those targeted, the Washington Post wrote in an article last year.

“The judge overseeing the women’s lawsuit has agreed to let them proceed under pseudonyms because of their fears of further harassment,” the article notes.

Ryan did not immediately respond to AP requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the situation has put an unwelcome spotlight on an entirely different person in Austin with a very similar name, who happens to be a local attorney and adjunct law professor at the University of Texas. He has been receiving some media inquiries.

The Mathew C. Ryan who is a UT student and a defendant in the litigation is not the Matthew C. Ryan who practices as a partner at a local law firm, Lemley has confirmed to

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