Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Anthony Ciolli, the Penn 3L who was one of two people responsible for the AutoAdmit message board, has apparently lost his job offer. I have no sympathy at all. It's nice to know that when somebody does bad, bad things with their First Amendment (or CDA safe-harbor) rights, society sometimes steps in to discipline them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

orrick just increased west coast starting salary to $160,000:

5/03/2007 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Igor said...

My only experience with AutoAdmit came about in the wake of the Trustafarian scandal. I found that many of the posts on that site were inappropriate, offensive and vulgar. Some of the things I read there were just sickening. And I’m not easily offended.

That said, I must say that I do feel some sympathy for Ciolli. According to WSJ, Ciolli and Cohen started the site in 2004 – well before Edwards Angell made Ciolli a permanent offer. The rescission, coming on the heels of the Hastings ordeal, smacks of politics rather than “punishment.” Certainly, the firm knew of Ciolli’s involvement with the site (and if they didn’t, their recruiters must really suck). Moreover, I cannot imagine that AutoAdmit turned into a virtual Klan hangout overnight. It seems to me that Edwards Angell is punishing Ciolli for Trustafarian’s stupidity. I seriously doubt that they would have rescinded Ciolli’s offer had the whole Trustafarian thing not occurred.

I don’t know Ciolli and am wholly unfamiliar with his personal views. Perhaps he’s a bigoted racist. I don’t know. But the firm did find Ciolli to be an ok guy in person. They gave him an offer, after all. Maybe Ciolli is just a guy who runs a website, like our own, beloved Armen. It would be profoundly unfair to punish Armen for every time some moron posts a racist comment on this blog.

I really can’t gloat about Ciolli’s job loss. Even if he is a “dirty rotten scoundrel,” as Isaac says, it looks like the firm is punishing him for someone else’s transgressions. That’s unfair.

5/03/2007 9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all the administrators of this blog still have their job offers?

5/03/2007 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not unfair. Ciolli chose to affiliate with AutoAdmit and what the site represents, including the views on the women of the T14 and Trustifarian. The First Amendment says we can say whatever we want, or support others to say whatever they want. But the rest of society does not have to accept or respect those viewpoints. Ciolli chose to affiliate with AutoAdmit. Edwards Angell is choosing not to associate with Ciolli. That's fair.

5/03/2007 10:10 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

With that reasoning then I should censor the crap out of the comments here. Not a bad idea, I might add.

5/03/2007 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Igor said...

Anon 10:10:

Is it just Ciolli’s "affiliation" with autoadmit that bothers you? Well, in that case, have you ever read the (now defunct) comments section on Yahoo news? They had this link at the bottom of every news story, where you could go and leave a comment. That place was full of racists. I don't think I've ever been to a forum with more anti-Semitic, anti-Black, misogynistic, and just plain offensive rhetoric.

Now, do you think we as a society should "punish" the creators and facilitators of Yahoo News for permitting such discussion? I doubt it.

This is not the USSR. There is no guilt by association here. Punishing a person for another's transgressions is unfair. Running an internet discussion forum is NOT a transgression.

5/03/2007 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armen -

It's a good question: If someone posted a photo of a female law student and asked people to make comments, and bloggers called her a whore or a cunt or described ways they wanted to sexually violate her or recommended that other bloggers rape her, would you keep it on your board?

5/03/2007 10:27 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

What if my firm really frowns upon people who like Yoo's teaching style? I understand your point, and any sort of degredation of civility is usually initiated by me getting pissed off at some anonymous commenter. But I stand by everything I say, the problem is associating me with others who comment here. It does put me in a tough spot.

5/03/2007 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope all the posts between 7:30 and 10:30 were done while watching the Warrior's game. The look on Cuban's face was PRICELESS.

5/03/2007 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Isaac on this one. This is some justice in this world, afterall.

5/03/2007 10:58 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...


three points. first, the firm's first letter to Ciolli was dated april 11, well before the trustafarian fiasco. the wsj post points out that it followed pretty close on the heels of the WaPo story about the site, which seems like a plausible explanation of how it came to the firm's attention. so deciding to challenge him and then "terminate" him may have been PR-driven, but not shooting-threat-hoax-driven.

also, although we don't have "guilt by association" when it comes to legal liability, we DO have it in social and economic contexts. and in some cases--like this one--that's appropriate. that was really my original point.

finally, the fact that we don't live in the USSR doesn't mean we live in a world without morality. running a internet discussion forum IS a transgression--a moral one, that is--when that forum is being used to harass, denigrate, and intimidate innocent people, and when you have every reason in the world to know it. if commenters posted the kind of threatening filth that is regularly on autoadmit, i trust that armen WOULD delete it. if he didn't, i would end my association with the blog.

5/03/2007 11:01 PM  
Blogger PG said...


I hope that if your blog turns into something like AutoAdmit and you refuse to keep comments invading non-public figures' privacy from getting picked up by search engines, that you have more guts than Cohen and Ciolli. Instead of wrapping yourself in the mantle of free speech, simply reply to the complainers: "In the words of Jay-Z, 'money, cash, hos.' We are here to make money, that we turn into cash, so we can get hos, and anything that detracts from our ability to do that — hell no."

(This was the response of a friend after I described my discussions with the AutoAdmit administrators to him. I don't exactly agree with it, but there's not really any way to counter it, either. When Cohen kept claiming that he just wanted to protect free speech, I kept trying to explain that he could do that without having said speech show up on Google searches. If someone openly tells me he's a conscienceless scumbag who can be stopped only by the law itself, moral suasion hour is over.)

5/03/2007 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Igor said...


Perhaps you're right. Ciolli and Cohen probably should have taken down some of the offensive or harassing posts. But which ones? As Armen pointed out, a firm may frown upon "people who like Yoo's teaching style." Or on people who think the "Torture Memo’s" analysis was sound.

You suggested that morality should be a guide here, especially when a "forum is being used to harass, denigrate, and intimidate innocent people." But what does that mean? Many would agree that the “Torture Memo” was “immoral.” Should Yoo’s supporters lose their jobs? Certainly not. And plenty of people call each other "douchebags" and other things on this blog. Lots of anonymous posts are less than civil, and some are downright insulting. Is Armen a bad man for keeping them in? Not at all.

Because Ciolli was not engaging in prohibited conduct, it is difficult to assign to him the moral blame properly placed on others.

For me, this is not a case of a law firm enforcing some moral code. It's PR, pure and simple.

5/03/2007 11:26 PM  
Blogger Isaac said...

for Cohen or anyone to suggest that actively facilitating obnoxious speech is equivalent to protecting freedome of speech is the biggest load of crap imaginable. active facilitation of obnoxious speech is nothing more than the active facilitation of obnoxious speech. the fact that we value our freedom confers no positive moral value on abuses of that freedom. the fact that offensive conduct happens to lie within the boundaries of legality in a free society has nothing at all to do with its ethical character.

i don't really understand the "money, cash, hos" argument. i don't think a person who posts threatening or otherwise obnoxious material is owed any explanation at all when that content is deleted.

5/03/2007 11:33 PM  
Blogger Isaac said...


yes, i think morality should be a guide here. and lots of places. moral decision-making can be difficult, as you suggest, but that doesn't mean it should be abandoned. it involves judgment, insight, responsibility, and the exercise of values. the question exactly which posts should have been deleted may not be easy, and it may not be reducible to simple first principles. in some specific cases, not everyone will agree. but differences of opinion do not create a moral vacuum.

i think you continue to conflate "prohibited conduct" and moral reprobation. many immoral things are not illegal. many moral things are. the rule of law doesn't give us a free pass on having to make our own moral judgments. quite the contrary.

i obviously am in no position to speak to the firm's actual motivation. you may be correct about that. even if so, it means they are bowing to a perception of public morality which i endorse.

now, please don't post any more interesting comments. i'm trying to do my last-minute antitrust studying.

5/03/2007 11:45 PM  
Blogger PG said...

I have no trouble distinguishing what should be deleted or at least censored from outside view, from what shouldn't be. Stuff that's *generally* racist, sexist, homophobic? Leave it up. Stuff that *specifically* names individuals who are not public figures and who have not voluntarily engaged with the site? Hold it in moderation, contact the person mentioned, if s/he OKs it put it up, if s/he doesn't respond or negates, keep it off.

I'm starting to feel like the entire internets have been brainwashed by Cohen's "it's a slippery slope!" argument. It's only a slippery slope if you can't distinguish between hate speech (legally protected) and harassment/ defamation/ intrusion (legally actionable, even if AutoAdmit's victims either didn't want to spend the money or thought tracking down the specific anonymous posters would be too difficult). I guess we should excuse Cohen for not being able to distinguish between the two, but c'mon, we're law geeks!

The "money, cash, hos" statement is shorthand for "I don't care what other people think." Cohen and Ciolli have been fighting a failing and futile rearguard action by trying to defend themselves as righteous free speech advocates. Cohen's claim that he's concerned for the young women harassed on AutoAdmit is so laughable that his own users picked it apart as incompatible with his decision not to take threads down until Reputation Defender apologized to him. If Cohen and Ciolli instead simply refused comment anytime they were asked about the site, there actually would be less rope to hang them with. We wouldn't be pointing out the many, many instances where Ciolli voluntarily defended Cohen and the site, and his claims of uninvolvement and powerlessness would be far more plausible.

5/04/2007 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love you Isaac. Really I do.

Ciolli got exactly what he deserved. He arbitrarily deleted threads that contained information he disliked and stood silent when women were being harassed and defamed. I don’t see how firing him for his exceeding poor judgment was unfair. I also don’t understand people who argue that certain comments shouldn’t be moderated just because it may be difficult to discern what should or should not be kept.

Here is a sampling of the threads at XOXO:

WGWAG WGWAG WGWAG asian man penis on White girl

Women, photograph your rectum and post it to wikipedia

RATE my humanitarian idea: Hot Daughter Pubes for Peace

Question for ni**ers


South Africa was better off with Apartheid.

Blacks: how much would it take to convince you to goto Africa?

1/2 latin = spic. Still not white; still a spic. You spic

Now tell me again why I shouldn’t judge someone who *hosts* a site with content like this?

5/04/2007 12:55 AM  
Blogger Earl Warren said...

Isaac put it better than I could. The idea that "free speech" demands unlimited speech as enabled by a private actor is facile and nonsensical. You are responsible for the good and the harm you proximately cause when you create a media outlet. Armen has managed to put together an environment of high-level (if occasionally blue) discourse and information dissemination, precisely because he lays the groundwork and monitors the results. Why would it be so hard for XO to do the same? Indeed, even if a policy of stricter censorship on XO deleted, say, 20% of "good" posts, what is the harm in that, especially counter-balanced against the harm caused by 1) the invasion of personal private lives and 2) the amplification and engendering of violent, racist, and oppressive tendencies?

Indeed, the problem with XO is that the harms are now identifiable, growing, and immediate: the shut-down at Hastings, the reduced job prospects for the women targeted, and, at a more meta level, the ability of racists to find commiseration, support, amplification, approval, and approbation for behavior that would otherwise result in (properly) ostracization and condemnation.

Indeed, I don't think its hyperbole to suggest Ciolli et. all have presided over the re-birth of a high-end, high-degree, professional class of KKK-like hate mongers -- now complete with their own gathering site on the Internet to replace the cross-burnings and clandestine meetings at the local hall. Read through the site. The prospect of working with these people is frightening.

Oh, but I guess since Ciolli just believes in "free speech," all that can be excused. As Isaac put it, to mistake legal entitlement for moral propriety is to confuse and denigrate both.

And now, unlike Isaac, I will prepare for Antitrust by sleeping...

5/04/2007 1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If people flooded this board with offensive speech so that Armen could not censor it all without wasting a lot of his life, what would be the moral thing to do? Close it? Waste your time censoring it? Let it be?

It's one thing if censoring had no cost in time or otherwise, but putting an affirmative moral duty on someone to police any information space they create is something that shouldn't be taken lightly.

5/04/2007 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Women, photograph your rectum and post it to wikipedia"

Seems like a harmless enough request.

5/04/2007 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS said:

Spot on, Isaac & EW.

S&C firing this guy is a total free speech victory! There was no suppression of speech. Private actors provided a forum for speech. Other private actors spoke. Still other private actors read the speech and responded by choosing to not freely associate with people who would provide a forum for such speech. Perfect. I wish we took this approach to speech more often rather than slapping down rules preventing such dumbasses from revealing their true selves. The marketplace of ideas is functioning smoothly; let it run.

5/04/2007 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS said...

This thread got me to thinking about the role of anonymous blogging/commenting. It's one thing to be disguised (like EW) in a way where there would be some accountability because it's not purely anonymous. Such disguises aren't so much for escaping responsibility, but for keeping one's public life separate from one's private life. But purely anonymous comments? If I were moderating a blog, I would be tempted to hold the line a little tighter on comments from anonymous commenters than on people who identified themselves. I think the role of negative attribution (in this context, the lack of the moral right to be fully anonymous in someone else's forum) is important in allowing the "marketplace of ideas" function smoothly.

BTW, N&B is "censored" continuously to eliminate unwanted commercial speech--spam. That's why most of us have to fill out the word verification to post a comment. Wonder why that hasn't bothered the people who think free speech means unlimited speech (made available by private actors).

5/04/2007 8:14 AM  
Blogger Max Power said...

As a general matter, I agree with Isaac and EW as well. But I don't think you need to even discuss free speech or morality to justify the law firm's action here.

Law firms make decisions to NOT hire people all the time. They decide to not even interview you because of the school you attend. They don't give you a call back because of your grades. Or your clothes. Or your hair. You don't get an offer because they don't think you're a good "fit." Or you rub just one partner the wrong way. Or you got too drunk at the summer associate event. Or you made a stupid comment to an associate. Or maybe they just don't like the cut of your jib.

The point is, law firms have all kinds of reasons, both good and bad, for the decisions they make regarding hiring. Certainly not wanting to employ someone who is directly associated with racist, violent websites is a better reason than some of the reasons listed above. Don't you think some of the associates, particularly female and minority associates, would feel uncomfortable if Ciolli worked there? Isn't an associate not liking you often enough to sink your chances at a firm?

5/04/2007 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word verification is a sentience test. It's not unconstitutional, 3 generations of idiots is enough.

5/04/2007 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS said...

Yes, I understand it's a sentience test. But am I mistaken that its purpose is to weed out computer programs that automatically post certain types of pre-written comments (like spam)? And I didn't even remotely suggest that it was unconstitutional. I was just pointing out that the "unlimited speech" people didn't seem to mind that particular speech limitation imposed by the blog moderator. It wasn't a deep legal point, just a point.

5/04/2007 1:04 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

SS, I think anonymous was making a sarcastic remark, not some deep legal point.

5/04/2007 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS said...

Tnks for the clarification. But you know that I find it much more amusing to take sarcasm at face value. Sarcasm is such a lazy form of humor. :P

5/04/2007 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/04/2007 6:18 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I crack myself up

5/04/2007 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know you probably haven't spent much time on the cesspool that is Auto Admit but you should be aware it is not a totally anonymous environment either. You have to log in with a moniker to post there. Also, if you change your moniker, it changes it for all posts you have ever made. As a result, you can follow the behavior of a particular poster over time, just as you can here with the regular posters. Therefore, Armen's blog is actually more anonymous than but way less horrible most of the time. I like to think it's because we only have one bad apple at Boalt and he's on the way out.

Hope this helps.

5/05/2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger Will said...

You insinuated that he was a "dirt rotten scoundrel." Do you think you should be fired?

5/07/2007 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try, Will. You can go back to Auto Admit now. This blog is for grown-ups who actually know something.

5/08/2007 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Will should probably go back and play with the others at Auto Admit but I can't agree this blog is for "grown-ups who actually know something." Well, maybe it is when I'm posting.

5/08/2007 6:38 PM  

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