Self-Proclaimed Inventor of Email Files $15 Million Defamation Lawsuit Against Techdirt

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Techdirt founder Mike Masnick has been named in a $15 million libel lawsuit in Massachusetts by a representative of Shiva Ayyadurai over claims that Ayyadurai did not, in fact, invent email, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ayyadurai is being represented by Hollywood attorney Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in his suit against Gawker.

The Huffington Post published a series of articles in 2014 relating a version of the history of email, which claim that Ayyadurai invented it. The articles appear to have been removed.

In response to the Huffington Post series, Masnick published an article titled: “Why Is Huffington Post Running A Multi-Part Series To Promote The Lies Of A Guy Who Pretended To Invent Email?” Masnick credits Ray Tomlinson for playing a more critical role in the invention of email by introducing the “@” symbol in 1972, though he notes Tomlinson claimed that no individual invented email. Masnick also refers to the use of a system called “MAILBOX” at MIT in 1965.

Part of the argument made in the Huffington Post articles, Masnick says, depends on debunking the validity of previous references to electronic mail systems by referring to a RAND report from 1977. The reference, however, presents two sentences from the report, three pages apart, as consecutive. Quoting from the report at some length, Masnick points out that the argument it makes is not that email does not exist, but that the “MS” personal message system required further development to satisfy all possible users.

Masnick has returned to the story several times, and Ayyadurai accuses him not only of defamation, but also intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Reporter says. Leigh Beadon and Floor64 Inc., parent company of Techdirt, are also named in the suit.

In November, Ayyadurai “reached a reported $750,000 settlement against Gawker for a series of articles that sought to refute his claims to have invented email in 1979. Those stories have also been removed from Gawker’s sites, and Ayyadurai called the settlement ‘a victory for truth.'”

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