New York-based columnist Moira Donegan could face a defamation trial as a journalist sued her for putting his name on the list of people accused of rape and harassment. She had made the popular 'Sh**ty Media Men' Google spreadsheet which consisted of the names of 70 men in NYC media, facing allegations of sexual assault.
Donegan created the list in 2017 when the #MeToo movement was at its peak. She was sued by a New Orleans-based journalist Stephen Elliott. Donegan had included his name in the list and Elliott was accused of "rape, sexual harassment and coercion". However, his lawsuit has claimed that the allegations are false.
The Legal Theory
Donegan's attorney urged immunity for her client under a specific law that protects social media users who host or republish information from being held legally responsible for what others do or say online. But US District Court Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall on Thursday, in an order declined the request arguing that Donegan's testimony and 'vague' recollections about the document, did not 'rule out the possibility that she encouraged others to make posts that broke the law, according to the Daily Mail.
The ruling is endorsing speculation that Donegan could face a defamation trial. However, there is still a possibility that the judge could resolve the case on other grounds.
Elliott's Allegations Against Donegan
"Allowing this lawsuit to move forward is critical for due process and the Constitutional right for the accused to face their accusers, particularly at a time in the MeToo era when online, anonymous accusations are being made with impunity, destroying reputations and careers," said one of Elliott's attorneys, Andrew Miltenberg in a statement on Friday.
Further, the attorney added that judge DeArcy Hall's decision shows that Section 230 is not an acceptable defense for being the ring-leader of broad-based online character assassinations. "Moreover, the fact that Ms. Donegan deleted her "Shiity Media Men" spreadsheet and the majority of her related communications - the primary evidence in this case - is revealing."
Elliott had filed the suit in 2017 against Donegan and other 30 unnamed co-defendants for publishing false allegations of misconduct and sexual assault against him.
Due to the publication, Elliott revealed he remained extremely depressed and was 'enrolled in therapy while actively contemplating suicide.'