Friday, April 13, 2007

My Problem with the Yale Law Journal

Given that some people have misunderstood my objection to the Yale Law Journal altering my Pocket Part essay, I thought I should follow-up on my previous post about this experience.

Some, including one of my co-bloggers, initially had the impression that this fuss was all about a link to AutoAdmit being deactivated in my author byline. Let me make one thing clear: I don't care about the link. I don't own AutoAdmit, I don't work there anymore, and I don't care how much traffic it gets, and if the Yale Law Journal had asked me for my input before taking unilateral action I would have not only requested that the link be removed, but the reference to AutoAdmit entirely. After all, isn't updating articles to correct information one of the purported benefits of electronic publication?

My problem is with the editorial note. Because of that note, which contains false and misleading information about me (as well as AutoAdmit). I simply cannot feel comfortable sending a link to my Pocket Part piece to anyone now. How is the note false and misleading? Three things come to mind:

  1. Defamation has a very clear legal meaning and most (if not all) of the posts in question, while offensive and in bad taste, are not defamatory. "Stupid B---- to Attend Yale Law," for instance, is clearly an opinion and not a statement of fact. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the statements that could be construed as statements of fact, like the allegation that the girl in that thread has a 159 LSAT, are actually false. Given that Yale Law School admitted three students with 3.75+ GPAs and sub-160 LSATs last year, there is a possibility that the statement actually is true (and the only poeple who can prove it false--the girl, LSAC, Yale's dean of admissions--have not released the information).

  2. AutoAdmit did not publish any of this information. In the absence of Section 230, AutoAdmit would likely be treated not as a publisher under the common law of defamation, but a distributor. After all, AutoAdmit itself did not author any of this content--unaffiliated third parties did--and AutoAdmit did not prescreen content before it was posted or advertise itself as a place that prescreens content. An individual reading that editorial note who is unfamiliar with AutoAdmit would conclude that AutoAdmit itself was authoring defamatory comments, which is simply not true.

  3. But most importantly, because the editorial note is linked to from my Pocket Part essay, readers would be misled into thinking that I somehow had decision making authority over the AutoAdmit message board. This is simply not true. My title at AutoAdmit was Chief Education Director. I had that silly title for a reason--I was the administrator of AutoAdmit Studies. Jarret Cohen has always had sole decision making authority over the message board--in fact him retaining absolute control over the board was a provision of our partnership agreement. Believe me, if I had sole decision making authority over the message board, I would have done things differently.

To reiterate: my real problem here is altering my essay's page to include a link to that statement, and implying that I was in a position to do something about what they're condemning without subjecting myself to a potential lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and other assorted causes of action. I wouldn't care if the Yale Law Journal condemned AutoAdmit elsewhere on its site--in fact, depending on how that condemnation statement was worded, I might have signed it myself!

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