“Inventor of email” appeals ruling that tossed his libel suit against Techdirt
Lawyers representing the Massachusetts man who for years has made a highly-controversial claim that he invented email have filed their appeal in an ongoing lawsuit filed against the tech news site, Techdirt.
The appeal to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals comes more than a year after a federal judge dismissed the libel lawsuit brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur who is now also running as a longshot candidate for the United States Senate.
In the lower court ruling, US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor found that because it is impossible to define precisely and specifically what email is, Ayyadurai's "claim is incapable of being proved true or false."
In Ayyadurais lawyers Thursday filing, they argued Techdirt previously published articles and comments that contained numerous antagonistic words used to describe Ayyadurai—a "fraud," a "charlatan," a "liar," a "fake"—that a "reasonable reader" would find as asserting a factual statement rather than a protected opinion. Because of this, Ayyadurai's team believes, Techdirt's work can constitute defamation.
The appeal also argues that because Techdirt disregarded "extensive factual evidence," the publication "consciously disregarded" the truth and knowingly acted with "actual malice." Based on that, Ayyadurai and his attorneys claim, the case should be allowed to go forward.
However, numerous legends of Internet history—including Vint Cerf himself, a co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol—have publicly dismissed Ayyadurais claims regarding email.
Last year, Cerf told Ars that there "no evidence that Ayyadurais work had any impact on the development of electronic messages that stem from early ARPAnet work."
As Ars has reported previously, Techdirt (and its founder and CEO, Mike Masnick) has been a longtime critic of Ayyadurai and institutions that have bought into his claims. "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email," reads one Techdirt headline from 2012.
One of Techdirt's commenters dubbed Ayyadurai a "liar" and a "charlatan," which partially fueled Ayyadurai's initial January 2017 libel lawsuit.
Being credited as the self-proclaimed "inventor of email" appears to be very important to Ayyadurai. He mentions it in his Twitter name: "Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai,PhD (M.I.T.) Inventor of Email" and also his narrative is certainly prominent in Google results of the query: "who invented email."
Following the new filing, Techdirt will now be given an opportunity to respond to the appeal. Oral arguments in the case have not yet been scheduled.