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Archive for January, 2017

If You Repeatedly Make False Claims, Then Expect Criticism, Shiva Ayyadurai

Or: Shiva Ayyadurai Threatens to Sue Social Media Sites Over One-Line Posts

Shiva Ayyadurai did not invent E-mail. Everyone knows that. It’s easily disprovable. Does he want is to be a punishable offense to point out that he is either deluded or lying? Seems so.

In my daytime job I habitually set up mail servers and I have been a heavy user of E-mail for many years (millions of mails in my boxes). I am no stranger to the subject. I have used E-mail since I was about 13.

Based on this legal threat [PDF] sent by Ayyadurai’s highly controversial lawyer, he has just sunk to new lows by attempting to police what people say about him online. He already sued TechDirt, whose founder coined the term “Streisand Effect”. It means that by trying to silence or suppress some information, especially on the Internet, one only amplifies it. By doing what he just did, Ayyadurai demonstrated his inability to grasp the Internet (e.g. the “Streisand Effect”), set aside E-mail.

Not a clever move. Not by a long shot.

I am a relatively opinionated person, but I am also typically polite and courteous. For people like Ayyadurai I haven’t much patience because I care for facts and I have low tolerance levels for charlatans, like religious nutcases such as Peter Popoff. Their lies are actually causing real harm. Having the nerve to also sue those who disagree with them makes them worse than charlatans; it makes them bullies and merely serves to weaken their stance. They are frail, insecure people.

A lot of readers may have not the faintest of clue what I’m talking about here, so consider these two articles about it [1, 2]. They include background and they are gently worded because Ayyadurai is a legal bully. He tries to induce self-censorship and if he succeeds, everybody loses. Well, with comments in these article one can get a whole picture, a more complete picture. Anonymous commenters are not afraid of Ayyadurai.

For the uninitiated, to put it succinctly, first Shiva Ayyadurai sued Gawker (a news site), basically for saying the truth about E-mail. Then he sued TechDirt (a blog). Now he threatens SOCIAL MEDIA sites. 140-character brainfarts! What next? Will he threaten to sue people over single-word insults, too?

“Divide and conquer,” told me a friend, is the game he is attempting to play here. “If he takes them on one at a time and none band together and crush him, he will win if only one site at a time.”

It’s a form of trolling.

“He’s such a charlatan,” my friend told me, that “I’m surprised he’s not at Microsoft or hanging out with Gates.”

This friend’s advice was to gather more information about this, e.g. by asking around about similar threats. “That would get the word out,” said the friend, “that he is aiming for a divide and conquer strategy. Is there a way to do a class action against an individual charlatan?”

At the moment we don’t quite know how broad this campaign has been. Maybe it was just a sole letter. It’s impossible to tell for sure, unless Ayyadurai folds and shows his cards.

“A lot of sites had articles exposing his fraud,” my friend pointed out. “For starters there are these sites: gizmodo, quora, theverge. Searching more, there is this” (from Charlatan Watch List). “They might be interested.”

Ayyadurai is not an ordinary person; the person is a serial threatener. I’ve recently been reading more about this, hence becoming aware of a Web-wide campaign by him (some like TechRadar too, apparently — not just TechDirt and Gawker — are at risk or under attack). Evidence of this endless chasing by him would weaken his case/s, as any judge in the TechDirt case (aligned with EFF now) would easily see that he’s just trying to ‘tame’ the Internet. Ayyadurai’s lawyer is also quite a bully; to make matters worse, he’s financially connected to Donald Trump, an infamous enemy of the free press (this lawyer received money from Trump’s ally Peter Thiel and represents Donald Trump’s wife in action against British media).

Why does Ayyadurai resort to these irrational fits? He just wants to silence anyone who contradicts him. Which as everyone knows is not possible and would simply get him yet more negative publicity…

Ayyadurai, seriously man, look what you have done to your reputation (if you ever had any)…

I’ve not written about this until the weekend partly due to lack of time (busy week at work) but primarily because I decided to wait until I see some reactions to it; not online reactions but reactions from friends.

“Probably wise,” said a friend about the wait-and-see approach, later adding: “I wonder how widely he has cast his net. Many trolls send out large numbers of letters and then focus on those that respond.”

I’m still eager to know if other people have received similar letters from Ayyadurai. It could be like a form of copyright trolling but with “libel” rather than copyright. And over what? One-line posts? 140 characters? It’s totally ridiculous! I didn’t even say anything that wasn’t already said elsewhere.

Based on the letter, Ayyadurai wanted to have me suspended/banned and even threatened litigation against the platform, which is obviously not liable at all. The whole letter is so legally flawed that one has to wonder if the lawyer should be disbarred. The lawyer even tried to conceal the actual threat, using some bizarre reasoning for secrecy (like misuse of copyright law).

This episode is not over. I hereby publicly ask anyone who has received a similar letter to get in contact with me. Friends agree with me that our utmost priority should be to put an end to this serial ‘libel’ trolling. If only to make an example and discourage others from attempting the same thing in the future…

The case is very important not just for TechDirt but for many of us whose writings are opinionated but based on facts. Nitpicking on some habitual insult (I’m guilty of that too sometimes) is a convenient way for them to paint their critics as unreasonable and rude, but isn’t it rude to blatantly lie about one’s achievements? Quite frankly, a one-word insult is the lesser evil in this context. Gagging criticism rather than gagging or suppressing false claims? Which is worse?

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