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October 20, 2006

Ann Bartow threatens to sue Zuzu of Feministe

Sisterhood is powerful, but evidently not as powerful as the lure of litigation.

Feminist law professor Ann Bartow is threatening to sue Zuzu of Feministe for defamation over these two comments in a Feministe thread about online pseudonymity and "outing."

In the offending comments, Zuzu complained that Bartow has been hinting to Zuzu's co-blogger that she had figured out Zuzu's offline identity. Zuzu said she couldn't think of any other way for Bartow to know who she was except through non-public databases:

Ann’s given me crap about being anti-feminist because she disagreed with me, and she’s also let me know, through others, that she knows who I am. I don’t doubt she does, since she has access to information others don’t. But there are other people with my name in New York, two of whom are attorneys and one of whom lives in Brooklyn and, unlike me,is listed.

There's been a lot of stupidity and craziness in the feminist blogosphere lately, but this lawsuit threat takes the cake.

Update: Zuzu's taking an unplanned vacation from Feministe, thanks to Ann's threats of lawsuits and outing. I always assumed that using one's real name contributed to responsible behavior online. It appears I was wrong. Although, since I don't have a control group, I can only wonder what Ann Bartow might do with a pseud. Also, kudos to Atrios for a vigorous defense of Zuzu and the right to pseudonymity. [HT: Shakomako] Here's another excellent defense of the right to remain pseudonymous from sly civilian.

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» Friday Night Blog Drama from Fiat Lux
There have been times when I've wondered whether I was doing the right thing by not hiding behind anonymity or pseudonymity on the Internet. Each time I've thought about it, though, I've ultimately decided that if... [Read More]

» Friday Night Blog Drama from Fiat Lux
There have been times when I've wondered whether I was doing the right thing by not hiding behind anonymity or pseudonymity on the Internet. Each time I've thought about it, though, I've ultimately decided that if... [Read More]

Comments

Zuzu mispelled in headline.

If this threat goes anywhere I'll pitch in for the Zuzu defense fund. Hopefully not necessary, since I'd rather donate that money to political candidates trying to restore constitutional checks and balances, but Zuzu's Good People(tm) and should be supported.

Not surprising that it would come from Ann Bartow. She is remarkably rigid and humorless, just the sort of person to pull a moronic stunt like this. Sometimes I wish she would convert and become a wingnut.

I'm confused about how what Zuzu typed is actionable defamation. If this sorta thing happens to often it'll be used as more "evidence" for the need for "tort reform".

If this threat goes anywhere I'll pitch in for the Zuzu defense fund. Hopefully not necessary, since I'd rather donate that money to political candidates trying to restore constitutional checks and balances, but Zuzu's Good People(tm) and should be supported.

Me too. Though I hope zuzu is wrong that there's to be a lawsuit. Aside from taking money, time and energy away from causes that could actually help someone, instead of grudges and revenge fantasies that should really be worked out through anger management, it'd be the surest way to create more of just the sort of criticism that sparked the lawsuit. If zuzu is right, this is an abuse of power.

Thanks for posting this.

I want to be very clear, though (and I thought I was in my post): She has not explicitly threatened to sue, at least as far as I can gather from the telephone game she insists on playing, using Jill as an intermediary. However, she's asked for my home address so that the First Amendment specialist she was consulting could contact me. Which, let's face it, means that she's making it plain that she's considering her options, and one of those options is to sue me.

Name of this thread should be Cannibal feminists: They eat their own.

>I want to be very clear, though (and I thought I was in my post):

Should have said: I hope zuzu is wrong that there's to be a lawsuit, or even the threat of one.

Our Lawsuits, Ourselves...

Hmmm... so are pseudonyms the internet equivalent of the burqa?

However, she's asked for my home address so that the First Amendment specialist she was consulting could contact me.

This makes absolutely no sense. It deconstructs to this:

"Hi! I think I know who your are and I might want to sue you! My lawyer would like to talk to you, even though there's no conceivable reason that opposing counsel should want to talk to the defendant in a defamation case except maybe to bully them! Please give me your home address so I can serve you with a summons, so I don't have to pay for a PI to find it, and maybe fall foul of some computer crime laws in the process! Thanks so much! Toodles, sweetie!"

Well, it seems Bartow has successfully driven Zuzu out of the blogosphere, at least for now. I'm sure she's quite proud of herself, although I still can't fathom Bartow's motivations for pulling this shit.

Bartow seems to be rather an idiot. Perhaps one can get an explanation from her at bartow@law.sc.edu

Our litigousness is vestigial honor culture. It's silly, but beats duelling pistols (and knuckle sandwiches.)

name of this thread should be cannibal feminists: they eat their own.

there's a joke there that i can't make around feminists.

personally, i think everyone should use their real name when blogging.

i know i do.

ps. lindsay why didn't you come to the bloggers breakfast for skippy at carnegies earlier this month? i missed ya, buddy!

.

.

Sorry I couldn't make it. Sounds like you guys had a great time.

Okay, I have read a lot of the threads and comments, and my guess is that as a prominent Law Professor with a specialty in privacy issues, any slightest suspicion that Ann Bartow was accessing illegal databases, or using legally accessible databases unethically, could destroy Ann Bartow's credibility and career. It might be very difficult for Bartow, who spends much time in databases, to prove that she is innocent. This particular joke was very dangerous to this particular person.

I do not know if Zuzu made such an accusation, and I am not taking a side.

If I were even to accuse blogger "x", who has a journalistic day job, of plagiarism, it could be very damaging. Accusations get stored as permanently as their refutations.

There are lots of databases that aren't available to the general public--starting with obvious stuff like WestLaw or Lexis-Nexis... It's not obviously an invasion of privacy to use a non-public database to learn about someone. So, a clearly bracketed speculation from Zuzu is unlikely to be damaging to Ann.

Also, truth's a defense. (Or should be.) Zuzu guards her identity very carefully. I'm sure she checks to make sure that she's not giving herself away on Google or other easily available online sources. So, if she has done her own audits of public sources, I think it's fair of her to speculate that anyone who knows who she is must have gone outside the usual channels to find out.

To win a libel lawsuit in the United States, you need to prove that the statement caused you damage.

well, as is apparent by now, whatever damage AB might've thought would happen to her rep, she's just made it worse by about a thousandfold. bottom line: there's nothing rational about this.

No, nothing rational at all. I'm really scratching my head about her motives. I mean what beef does AB even have with Zuzu, besides that minor flare over "Go Fug Yourself"?

Maybe it's Zuzu's relatively sex-positive track record. Piny is even more sex-positive, but maybe he's harder to track down than Zuzu.

Per Bob, a related topic came up at LGM recently, to whit: "usually one would have to prove actual reputational damage, but libeling professional qualifications creates a presumption of damage." If Ann routinely works with sensitive materials the accusation that she has misued them is potentially serious. That said, basing an action on what Zuzu actually said (there's a pretty big jump between "other sources" and "misusing proporiety sources") would be pretty thin, and unlikely to go anywhere.

Apart from everything else, an outing threat is also a threat to potentially expose someone to some stray lunatic with some ridiculous online grudge. Yeah, it's a remote possibility -- but not an impossible one. You want to out someone online, you'd best have a pretty robust sense of your own personal conscience.

Without going into details, cause the freaking witch scares me, I am now taking a side, and it is not Ann Bartow's. She is very wrong on several counts.

Ann weighed in today on zuzu's page (Lindsay links to at the top of this thread), to say that she was not litigious, and had had no intention of suing or threatening to sue anybody. Good news. And hopefully, welcome back to zuzu soon.

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