The following story is from Leither’s report :
,and, The Record:
Controversy over Ciolli/Cohen “Discussion” Board Continues: “Autoadmit” Profiled on List of “Unethical” Websites
Here; an excerpt:
AutoAdmit bills itself as “the most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world”…. “[P]restigious” isn’t the word for AutoAdmit. “Infamous” is more accurate. “Slimy” may be even better.
The site is the creation of Anthony Ciolli, a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jarret Cohen, a 23-year-old insurance agent….[I]t includes hundreds [in fact, thousands] of anonymous posts that insult women, gays, blacks, Jews and Asians, frequently disparaging individuals by name. Messages are sometimes outright libel, including false claims about sexual activity and STDs, and accusations of unethical activities. To the targets’ dismay, the comments bubble up through the Internet into the public domain via Google’s powerful search engine. And many potential employers of law school graduates routinely check Google for information on a candidate. Thanks to AutoAdmit, what they will find will sometimes be racist, sexist or obscene gossip.
Cohen says the site merely provides a forum for free speech. “I want it to be a place where people can express themselves freely, just as if they were to go to a town square and say whatever brilliant or foolish thoughts they have,” Cohen said in a recent Washington Post interview. Ciolli was quoted as saying that he “almost never censor[s] content, no matter how abhorrent it may be” because he is a “strong believer in freedom of expression and the marketplace of ideas.”
This transparent rationalization for the site’s irresponsible management is simultaneously infuriating and hilarious. In the “town square” one must be physically present to be heard, which means that the source of offensive and insulting speech directed at an individual must take responsibility for his or her actions. Not on AutoAdmit, however; those brave warriors of free expression can remain anonymous, because Ciolli and Cohen let them. Nor did the speeches in the town square end up on a web search engine like Google, where they could be seen by anyone in the world with a computer, downloaded, copied, and distributed to humiliate and harm an innocent victim of a verbal attack.
Comparing AutoAdmit to the town square is like comparing the late Anna Nicole Smith to Mother Theresa. What the site really resembles is the walls of a particularly busy public toilet where low-lifes anonymously inscribe filthy graffiti about others. Unlike the operators of most such cesspools of anonymous “free expression,” however, these two actually boast that they never wash the walls, encouraging more and more irresponsible content….
In mid-February, several frequenters of the site organized a contest on a separate site to name the “hottest” female student at a “Top 14” law school and used AutoAdmit to publicize the contest and the involuntary “entrants.” A group of boorish University of Virginia Law students posted dozens of photos of their eight female classmates, which all ended up on AutoAdmit. None of them consented to having their pictures posted.
Then the AutoAdmit’s message board was bombarded with salacious comments about the women, often referencing them by name. The Virginia Law Weekly reported that in addition to criticizing the co-eds’ physical attributes on the discussion threads, AutoAdmit members continually referred to some of these UVA Law students as “whores,” “sluts,” and worse. One anonymous AutoAdmit poster wrote about performing sex acts on them, while another told them to “get raped.” Naturally, Ciolli and Cohen did nothing. Well, that’s unfair: Ciolli commented on the girls himself.
Finally, the “Hottest Female” contest so dominated AutoAdmit and was focusing so much criticism on the site that Ciolli persuaded the organizers to authorize the removal of its posts. But to do so was the decision of the contest’s originators, not the AutoAdmit administrators, and the damage to the women who were exhibited and derided cannot be undone. Meanwhile, more anonymous bile pours onto the site daily. The decision to ask the contest to leave was a PR move, not a change in policy. Ciolli told the Washington Post that he thought he deserved a “gold star,” even though he encouraged the competition by participating in the on-line assessment of the female law students.
[Aside to whatever state bar association Ciolli eventually applies to join: Watch out. This guy is an ethics violation waiting to happen.]
As I have heard from numerous law students, however, it is well-known that Mr. Ciolli and Mr. Cohen remove threads all the time when it suits them. Indeed, in one instance, Mr. Ciolli, when confronted by one of his Penn professors, had a disgusting thread about the professor removed within a half hour. For obvious reasons, Mr. Cohen and especially Mr. Ciolli have been trying to rewrite the history of their moderation policies, with Mr. Ciolli going so far as to proffer a fake “resignation” from the discussion board (that the “resignation” was meaningless is suitably exposed in the comments section here). One female student who had been harassed and defamed on the discussion board wrote to me reporting that in the wake of the Washington Post story (in which her travails with Autoadmit had not been mentioned) Mr. Ciolli e-mailed her school’s Dean of Students
and told her he is unable to do anything about the postings about me because I never gave him my name. However, I e-mailed him a number of times, gave him my name, and gave him direct links to the postings and each time he responded, he was extremely rude, told me not to contact him again, and said there is nothing he can do about the postings. So, it looks like he is now making misrepresentations to school administrators. I also find it odd that he is responding to the problem one year later.
A group of students at Yale Law School, meanwhile, is compiling a dossier on Mr. Ciolli’s unethical conduct for submission to state Bar Character & Fitness Committees.
Autoadmit Lifts Veil of Anonymity
After weeks of controversy following mainstream media coverage on sexually harassing content, sharply-worded condemnations from law school deans, and the convening of a panel discussion at Harvard Law School, the infamous Autoadmit message board ceased to hide its posters’ anonymity Monday. Visitors were finally able to see which posters were using multiple usernames, and other posters were outright identified by their name or school.
Some speculated that a series of identical form letters from consumer advocacy outfit Reputation Defender had finally done the trick, while others suggested that it was more likely that monkeys had begun to fly out of the rear end of Michael Fertik, the inept HLS grad at the helm of Reputation Defender. The real consensus was that site owner Jarrett Cohen had finally broken down after the five thousandth thread containing “white girls with asian guys” jokes, and had finally decided to open the Pandora’s box of the message board’s user information which he had been secretly collecting.
The truth about Autoadmit’s posters didn’t take long to discover.
“Yeah, there are only six people posting,” admitted Cohen by email this week. “You can see why I didn’t want it to get out.”
The new user profile information showed that only six individuals are responsible for 100% of the board’s often disturbing content, with some taking on upwards of 50 usernames and arguing with themselves for hours late at night about whether bottom 1/3 at Georgetown really does get biglaw or are just pretending, how many drug arrests it takes to have a real Character & Fitness problem for the bar, or how many seconds it would take University of Texas Professor Brian Leiter to start rationalizing his school’s drop in the US News rankings.
An obese grandmother in Dubuque, Iowa was revealed as the force behind posters like “pensive,” “bigpapapump,” “Mandy,” “Mind the Gap,” and two dozen more. Female posters “Rowan,” “saltybabe,” “rasquach” and “sugarywitch” were all revealed to be the work of Southwestern School of Law 3L Kevin McDonald, a 41-year old former security guard.
“IAMAREFRIGERATOR” turned out to be an actual refrigerator in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“WHOOSH!!” said the poster, when contacted for a comment.
In the most surprising turn of events, the identity of one poster turned out to be a member of the elite law school community. The infamous, obsessive poster “superstudyasian” was revealed to be no other than Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh.
“I am appalled by this accusation,” said Dean Koh when asked to respond by telephone. “I am much too busy as dean to post thousands of threads praising those who, like me, have loving, committed relationships composed of an Asian male and a Caucasian female. You might expect these antics from David Lat, but not myself.”
Koh then whispered, “WGWAG,” and hung up the phone.
As the Record went to print Wednesday, the Internet Speech panel hosted by the Berkman Center was still on, despite uninviting Autoadmit administrator Cohen and Michigan law professor and gadfly Ann Althouse the week before the panel.
“This will be the best panel to ever uninvite the people who might say something interesting,” said Professor Charles Nesson Wednesday. “I may just uninvite myself.”