For the past few months, my law firm has been proud to represent Anthony Ciolli in the infamous Auto Admit lawsuit. As it was ongoing litigation, I have refrained from commenting upon it. I may report on it from the sidelines now – if anything legally interesting arises in the case. I am really only interested in the CDA Section 230 issues, so juicy tidbits and gossip will likely be better sought elsewhere.
For now, I will let Mr. Ciolli speak for himself. Here is Mr. Ciolli’s statement, issued this morning:
I am pleased to see that the Plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed me from this suit. Including me in the suit in the first place was legally unsupportable. I never posted a single defamatory or invasive statement. I told the plaintiffs that from the start, and I provided them with a sworn declaration to that effect.
Had I remained as a defendant, the only theory could have been rooted in a desire to overturn Section 230. As I was merely an employee of AutoAdmit, leaving me in the suit would have been akin to suing a Google employee for anything found on a web page hosted by that company – even if Google was not responsible for the content. The weakness of that theory was apparent to me from the beginning, as were the ramifications of its unlikely success — an explosion of liability for every internet service provider in America.
Prior to being named in the suit, I fully sympathized with the plaintiffs. Now that they seem to have found a superior moral, logical, and ethical compass, I sympathize with them again. What happened to them was wrong, and those who mistreated them should be held responsible for their actions.
Prior to this suit being filed, I did everything within my power to help the Plaintiffs’ position. I persuaded the operator of the T14 website to take down that site. I clashed with AutoAdmit’s owner in a failed attempt to convince him to comply with the Plaintiffs requests. When he refused, I took the only action that remained open to me — I resigned from my job in protest. Unfortunately, all of that was ignored by the plaintiffs, the media, and a small but shrill chorus of bloggers who sought to damage my reputation without regard for the facts.
This new complaint is superior to the original in every way. Had I been served with the complaint, my attorneys were prepared to file a counterclaim along with a motion for sanctions under Rule 11. The new complaint shows conscientiousness in both its factual research and its adherence to professional principles. Whoever wrote this should be congratulated.
In reading it, I find it heartening that the plaintiffs no longer appear to be fixated on a quest to overturn Section 230, without which much of the web would cease to function. I must presume that the fact that the lead counsel in this case is a board member at the Electronic Frontier Foundation figured into this wise decision — and thus I salute him for taking control of this issue. I truly hope that the plaintiffs legitimate interests can be vindicated while leaving the First Amendment and Section 230 intact.
As time passes and more facts come out, everyone will come to realize that I not only did nothing wrong, but that I extended myself beyond my responsibilities in order to altruistically do right. As they say “no good deed goes unpunished.” Nevertheless, I am proud of what I tried to do to make this situation better – even if neither of the victims yet appreciate my efforts. I hope that the day will come that the Plaintiffs realize that I was not only not a bad guy, but that I was truly in their corner.
I am now focused on my career and continuing to live my life in a positive manner.
I have always felt that there was something strange underneath the surface of this case, and especially underneath Mr. Ciolli being named as a defendant.
Now that this case is in my rear view mirror, I will say that despite the acrimony between the parties, Prof. Lemley and his crew at Keker VanNest have been extremely courteous to us. I presume that since he has added four new attorneys to the case, he must have some information about the pseudonymous posters. If I were them, I would seek out some pretty good counsel (but not me). If my experience is any indicator, Lemley is going to be firm with them, but simultaneously abundantly fair, courteous, and professional.
Documents and Related Links
- Here is the Amended Complaint.
- Here is a good analysis of the case from a few weeks ago — nobody on this side of the table served as a source for the information in it, but it is quite prescient and insightful.
- One blogger who thinks Ciolli should catch a break.
- Wall Street Journal Blog entry asking some good questions that we may never see answered.
- Volokh entry on the suit.
- EFF on Anonymity
- EFF’s Section 230 Case Archive
By the way, if anyone is looking for a freshly-minted associate, Mr. Ciolli has superior writing ability (11 law review articles to his credit already), intellect that borders on intimidating, an inspiring level of integrity and decency, and ambition that just won’t quit. I’ll send you his resume upon request.