Reason Roundup

Lawsuit Against 'Shitty Media Men' List Creator Can Proceed, Judge Says

Plus: Tech giants will testify in Congressional antitrust hearing, Seattle police clear out CHOP, and more...


A case against the creator of the "Shitty Media Men" list can move forward, per a federal judge's ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by one of the men named on the list. The next step in the case will involve an interesting dilemma involving the controversial federal law known as Section 230.

The lawsuit—brought by writer and director Stephen Elliott, best known for The Adderall Diaries—alleges that "Shitty Media Men" spreadsheet creator Moira Donegan and 30 "Janes Does" who contributed to the sheet are guilty of defamation due to claims made about him.

In 2017, Donegan created a Google spreadsheet where users could anonymously create reports about "shitty" men who they accused of behaviors ranging from rude comments to rape. The list circulated privately among a group of (largely) New York-based media women until word got out to the wider media industry. Eventually, the spreadsheet was covered in the press. On Elliott's entry, it said "rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion."

Federal Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall decided Monday to allow Elliott's case against Donegan to proceed, overruling her motion to dismiss.

The issue at stake this round was whether Elliott is a public figure. If so, the standard for proving defamation is higher, and the chances for Donegan's motion to dismiss would have been much greater. Hall ruled that Elliott is not a public figure for purposes of this case.

His "degree of involvement in a controversy surrounding sexual assault, sexual harassment and consent in the workplace, if any, is de minimis. Defendant directed the Court to only a few tangential references to sexual harassment or lewd jokes in the workplace in Plaintiff's writing and interviews," the judge writes. "And the Court is not willing to find that Plaintiff's more extensive writings and interviews about sex, BDSM, and sexual assault—unrelated to workplace issues—transforms him into a public figure with respect to the controversy here."

Donegan's motion to dismiss was denied and Elliott's case against her continues. Next up: figuring out what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has to say about all this. The judge asked both Elliott and Donegan to "proceed without delay to narrowly tailored discovery to address factual issues related to Defendant's CDA immunity defense."

Section 230 says "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Donegan argues that Section 230 applies here because she, as the creator of the list, is the provider of an "interactive computer service" and should not be held legally liable for potentially defamatory shitty-men allegations made by others.


To house a generation of unwanted or unaffordable children, [former Romanian communist dictator Nicolae] Ceauşescu ordered the construction or conversion of hundreds of structures around the country. Signs displayed the slogan: the state can take better care of your child than you can.

Melissa Fay Greene looks at what's become of Romania's orphans 30 years later.


The heads of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will all testify before members of Congress later this month in an all-day hearing about antitrust law. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) "said that the yearlong congressional investigation has included eight round-table discussions, 93 requests for information, 43 experts testifying, and five hearings," notes New York Times opinion writer Kara Swisher (who appears positively gleeful about what she's deemed the coming Techopolypse, writing "No surprise that I prefer public grillings with a side of shame"). The date for the hearing has not yet been announced.

"A committee spokesperson declined to comment on…whether the CEOs have agreed to appear in person or virtually," reports Politico. "It's also unclear whether the two sides have come to an agreement about the committee's demand for additional documents from the companies, which lawmakers have said are key to completing their investigation."


• Economists are looking at links between credit card spending categories and COVID-19 outbreaks:

The study also found that "that higher spending in supermarkets predicts slower spread of the virus, hinting that high levels of supermarket spending are indicative of more careful social distancing in a state."

• Nick Sibilla explores the push from Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) to overhaul federal civil asset forfeiture laws through the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act.

• A New York county is now subpoenaing info from people who won't give it voluntarily to contact tracers.

• A new California "privacy" law could be a big burden on businesses already crushed by COVID-19.

• Seattle police yesterday cleared out the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest that protesters in early June had declared an autonomous zone. After promising she wouldn't do so, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order sending police into the area to clear it out. Thirty-one people were arrested.

• Republican-led states can't seem to stop passing abortion restrictions that have already been declared unconstitutional.

• Confederate leaders will finally leave Richmond, Virginia:

• Protecting and serving:

• Contrary to Republican claims that the push for D.C. statehood is driven by Democratic Party elites, "the people of Washington, D.C., want congressional representation. They have wanted it for a long time, and have said so in explicit terms," Sarah Jones writes at Intelligencer.