Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Should a noxious cyber-harasser be identified by name?

In yesterday's post about the jackass harassing Prof. Leong on-line, I referred to him only as "M," since Prof. Leong had not named him on her blog.  His identity is not in doubt:  he is named in her ethics complaint to the bar, and he even admitted on his "scam" blog that Prof. Leong had contacted him.  My own view is that Levmore and Schopenhauer have it right, and that people like this should ordinarily be exposed, and that if they were exposed more often, cyberspace would be less of a cesspool than it currently is. 

But what do readers think?  Should M be named in public, and bear the reputational costs of his noxious sexism and on-line harassment?  Here's a poll for readers:

 

UPDATE:  It appears "friends of M" may now be voting, but even so the vote is lopsided in favoring of naming M (77 in favor, 22 against, 7 undecided).  Interesting.

ANOTHER:  The vote is pretty lopsided in favor of naming the miscreant (109 in favor, 30 against, 9 undecided), but I'd be curious to hear from those who voted 'no' what their reasoning is.  Please e-mail me.

AND ONE MORE:  So with more than 200 votes cast, the distribution of opinion is pretty clear:  about 75% think “M” should be named, about 20% think he should not be named, and 5% are undecided.  [Final tally: 180 for, 51 against, 11 undecided.]  Ibsen warned us the “majority is always wrong,” which is why I solicited input from those skeptical of naming him. The best reason I’ve heard for not naming “M” is that even if he is a sexist jackass and cyber-harasser, he doesn’t deserve to lose his job over that.  I certainly agree that “punishment” would be disproportionate to his wrongdoing, but I also think it an unlikely outcome.  Still, it is a weighty consideration.  A colleague elsewhere made a different point:  “I voted no on naming M, on pragmatic grounds.  My impression is that most cyber trolls, like most imbeciles generally, crave attention more than anything else.  Publicly naming them could inadvertently give them exactly the attention they want--and hence throw them right into the briar patch.”  And another said:  “He will just choose a new handle and continue with his mischief.  Let the Bar deal with this, and ignore him.”  I’d still be glad to hear from others who voted ‘no’ about their reasons, before deciding how to proceed.  (Classes here start Monday, so I’m a bit swamped right now.)   

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2013/12/poll-on-m.html

Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest | Permalink