Stephen Elliott, a writer based in New Orleans who allegedly committed several sexual misconduct in a list of "Men of the media" poorly distributed a year ago, is suing the creator of the Google spreadsheet, Moira Donegan.
The defamation lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the US District Court. UU For the Eastern District of New York, marks a new chapter in the conflict over the #MeToo movement. The lawsuit appears to be the first legal action taken by a man named in the document, which opened a debate on anonymity, self-protection and the Web, since the prevalence of inappropriate sexual behavior became a focus of national attention.
As the spreadsheet made its way across the Internet on October 11, 2017, a flash point of the emerging #MeToo movement, its cells swelled to fit the anonymous reports of misbehavior by men working in journalism and publications. In 12 hours, Donegan, a former New Republic editor, disconnected the document while BuzzFeed was preparing to Publish an article about its contents.
But the list had already been populated with the names of more than 70 men. They had ages between 20 and 60 years. More than a dozen had been marked with red flashes, denoting accusations of "physical sexual violence by multiple women." One of them was Elliott, whose alleged irregularities included rape, sexual harassment, coercion and unsolicited invitations to his apartment.
He is now seeking at least $ 1.5 million in damages from Donegan, and is threatening through his lawsuit to expose up to 30 "Jane Does" still unknown who edited or published the spreadsheet.
"The Defendants knew that the List contained false defamatory statements, including the entire Plaintiff's entry, but published the List to numerous women to injure, harass, defame, endanger, embarrass and embarrass the Claimant," Nesenoff's attorneys and Miltenberg, a lawyer from New York. Law firm based, wrote in the complaint filed in federal court.
Andrew Miltenberg, one of Elliott's attorneys, has become a prominent advocate for men seeking to defend themselves against allegations of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses. His clients have included Paul Nungesser, the student at Columbia University, accused by his partner, Emma Sulkowicz, of rape, and Alec Klein, the former Northwestern journalism professor, also known as The Washington Post, accused of misconduct by part of students and staff of Evanston, Ill., Campus.
A defamation lawsuit is difficult to prove. The courts require that it be proven that what was said or written was false, and that the false statement caused actual harm. It is even more challenging if the plaintiff is a public figure, in which case he would have to show that the defendant acted knowing that the accusation was false or in "reckless disregard" of the truth. While Elliott maintains that he is not a public figure, the lawsuit claims that the defendants knew that the allegations against him were false because of his well-documented sexual preferences, including in his 2006 book, "My Girlfriend Comes to the City." and Beats Me Up. "
His lawsuit details the personal and professional difficulties he encountered due to the list. He tells how he contemplated suicide and enrolled in therapy when friends and family rejected him. The presentation says that professional opportunities dried up.
"He attributed this to the false accusations recently published in the List in which he was falsely accused of being a rapist," the lawsuit alleges.
Donegan, a writer based in New York, posted an essay on Twitter on Thursday that she had written for The New York Magazine about the list and its reception.
"I started the list of men in the media," the headline of the January 2018 essay reported. "My name is Moira Donegan."
The piece responded to growing speculation about the origins of the list, which became a famous cause in media circles, as rumors circulated that Harper magazine was planning to name Donegan as the initiator of the effort. The article in the March 2018 issue, written by Katie Roiphe, lamented the "Twitter feminism" and compared the list of media figures who are said to have misbehaved to an "anonymously-collaborated list of Muslims" . Several prominent men on the list, including Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker and Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic and then the Atlantic, eventually lost their jobs.
Donegan said there were also repercussions for her. She lost friends, as well as an unspecified job, in the weeks following the exposure of the spreadsheet, she wrote in The Cut. She acknowledged the "pitfalls" and said the list was "in fact vulnerable to false accusations", a concern that led her to add a disclaimer at the top. "This document is just a collection of accusations and rumors of misconduct, take everything with a grain of salt." The document was labeled "a collection of accusations and rumors of misconduct."
But he defended his decision to create the spreadsheet, saying it was not intended for mass consumption, but rather as "a place for women to share their stories of harassment and aggression without being discredited or judged unnecessarily."
"The hope was to create an alternative way to inform about this type of behavior and warn others without fear of reprisals," he wrote. "Too often, for someone looking to report an incident or to stop habitual behavior, all available options are bad."
While critics warned that whisper networks denied due process to defendants, others raised different concerns. Sarah Jeong, the technology writer whose own online behavior has been a source of controversy, noted on the edge that these networks could also harm victims. She described a "double-edged sword: the same secret that protects victims and whistleblowers can also protect the perpetrators." He also noted that the list was too broad, "to compile stories that ranged from incredibly violent sexual assaults to unwanted workplace proposals, a mixture of allegations that … felt, for some, a little strange to be mixed together" .
Some prominent voices came in defense of Donegan. Samantha Bee, the host of "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," said the spreadsheet served the central purpose of the social movement against sexual violence. "The list also allows women to know that they were not alone, you know, the whole" me too "component."
"If we make a story public, we are little criminals who are bent on destroying men's careers." If we write a secret list to protect one another, we are gossip telling lies in the shadows, "Bee said, suggesting a Catch-22 .
The lawsuit points to additional contributors to the list, whose identities Elliott intends to expose using I.P. The addresses and email accounts that could reveal their true names and addresses, states the presentation. You are committing to citing "shared metadata from the Google spreadsheet" to obtain this information, according to the demand.
In addition to the monetary damages, Elliott asks the court to force a written retraction of all "false and defamatory statements."
The lawsuit follows closely the publication of a personal essay by Elliott in Quillette, an online magazine based in Sydney. In the September article, titled "How an anonymous accusation derailed my life," he argued that anonymity undermined the objectives of the #MeToo movement.
"#MeToo was an expression of solidarity, but there is no solidarity for the accused," he wrote. "We do not talk to each other. plus has been accused, there must be a good reason. We are afraid of guilt by association. We do not want to be noticed, so we lower our voices. "Most of us stop publishing on social networks and we stick to circles of increasingly smaller friends."
He argued that people who only enjoy precarious employment, such as self-employed workers, are particularly vulnerable, since they do not have access to an investigation in the workplace that can clear their name.
"Over the course of this year, I have come to believe that if a movement involves anonymous lists and a presumption of guilt, it is already poisoned and not worth supporting," he said.
The problem is not disappearing. Last month, a collection of anonymous students at the University of Washington launched a website called "Make Them Sced Scared," requesting the names of men, in and out of school, accused of sexual misconduct.
"Is the [Sh — ty] Media Men's List, UW edition, "observed an article in The Stranger, the biweekly alternative newspaper in Seattle.
On the site, a series of questions are posed: "But what is innocent until proven guilty? What about false accusations? What about the lives of innocent people being ruined?"
The author of the site replied that it would be better to believe someone who had made a false accusation than to defend someone who had committed an assault, suggesting, with little explanation, that these were the only two options.
"I made this site for a reason: to give a voice to the survivors and to let them know the attackers who can not keep going with theirs, that there is some entity out there, if not our legal system, if not our" administrations of the universities, which will make them responsible for their actions, "says the person.
In an editorial, the campus newspaper called the site a "symptom, not a solution."
Reflecting on the failures in the spreadsheet, Donegan wrote in her January essay that what surprised her most was not the outburst, but "the understanding of how badly it was needed, how much more common is the experience of sexual harassment or assault. that the opportunity. " to talk about it. "
"I'm still trying to deal with this realization," he wrote.
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