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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

Mm, reading further, it looks as if people on Feministe still aren't convinced, so the controversy continues. Submitted FYI, without judgment on the case.

Alon -

That is mostly true, but some states allow (and the Supreme Court has permitted) some suits in cases where out-of-pocket damages are not specifically proven.

In Maryland for example, defamation upon someone's good name for honesty in business or upon the sexual morality of a woman can allow a suit without special enumerated damages. (Maryland has passed a state-level equal rights amendment that would probably permit a suit by a man for the same reason.) Accusing someone of a having a "loathesome disease" (leprosy in a prior era, one may speculate for today) may also allow a suit without specific damages.

But in general, you are correct. Defamation is an area where most lawyers don't "dabble" - the people who do it tend to do it hard core, full-time. I am not one of them.

Lindsay, you know this is BS.

Lindsay, you know this is BS.

Lindsay might know that, but I'd say that to me, and to at least some significant minority of the great unwashed and un-JDd masses of the blogosphere, it sure looks like you were at the very least intimidating Zuzu by way of throwing your legal-eagle weight around.

Regardless of what you actually said or did, a fairly sizeable chunk of the blog world interpreted you as saying "Stop bothering me, Zuzu, I'm a LAWYER! I have lawyer superpowers!"

did you read those emails before you sent them (or those comments before you posted them) so that you were really sure they communicated what you really wanted to say?

Note (via Hugo Schwyzer--I haven't been following this controversy)--Ann Bartow clarifies in this comment on Feministe.

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