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The Xs and Os Aren’t All Adding Up

heathers.jpgThough the AutoAdmit carnage has now been discussed ad nauseam by QuizLaw, WaPo, Althouse, the WSJ, and the eloquent, articulate Above the Law Commenters, there is one facet of the story that hasn’t been given its due yet: The guy behind AutoAdmit, Jarret Cohen. Sure, he was quoted in WaPo, but – as those with an agenda are inclined to do – the paper (allegedly) took those quotes out of context.

Mr. Cohen believes that the firestorm was started by a coordinated effort by the Big-Brother sounding Reputation Defender, a web service that seeks to “destroy, at your command, all inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, and slanderous information about you and/or your child using our proprietary in-house methodology.” According to Cohen, the company — which advertises such testimonials as: “sir u guys r great I have told everyone about u” — approached law school deans and the mass media without approaching AutoAdmit first, in the hopes that it might embarrass AutoAdmit and provoke a backlash.

According to an email Cohen sent to us, one of posters on AutoAdmit dug up personal information on a female (as discussed) and then emailed the entire Yale faculty in an attempt to embarrass the woman. Then, argues Cohen:

Reputation Defender brought a private issue of one of its clients to the attention of the national media, likely in part to score free publicity for their start-up company, and ended up causing this person more irreparable harm to her reputation than there ever was in the first place. In a twisted way, it’s almost as if they threw their client under the bus in order to promote themselves.

Mr. Cohen, who “doesn’t condone the crap” of many of the posters, but – presumably – recognizes their freedom to write whatever the hell they want, posted a timeline of events as evidence that Reputation Defender was “more interested in defending their own reputation than those of their (mostly pro-bono) clients.” He states that it took over a month for Reputation Defender to contact him about the matter and that it only did so after reaping the benefits of the above-mentioned media attention.

Reputation Defender then asked Cohen to take down the threads, but due to alleged privacy concerns, RD refused to tell Cohen which threads to remove. Cohen nevertheless agreed to take down the offending posts and to even acknowledge that AutoAdmit made some mistakes, but only if Reputation Defender also acknowledged its role and mistakes in the matter. Reputation Defender, however, refused to take any responsibility, though if Cohen’s allegations are true, RD certainly had a large role in helping to invade their own client’s privacy on a national level.

In either respect, Cohen acknowledges that he has taken down posts in the past, when personal requests have been made. He has meant for AutoAdmit to be a community where members had the “freedom to discuss controversial topics, but it was clearly not an endorsement of intrusion into people’s private lives.”

Mr. Cohen, in his web post, continues to maintain that he is willing to remove the offending posts, but only if Reputation Defender acknowledges its complicity. However, it is clear from the tone of the post that Mr. Cohen has been stung by the controversy and, especially, efforts to escalate the matter to the courts.

Personally, I think there is a lot of stubborn pride behind both sides of the issue. And, unfortunately, it looks like Brittan Heller and a couple of other women are suffering the most for it. Of course, none of this would’ve mattered at all if the scumbag law students had a modicum of decency. I’d love nothing more than to see the names of the original posters leaked, and then to see a little Heathers-style vigilante justice involving the shaving of pubic areas and Polaroid pictures posted onto AutoAdmit. Petty? Yeah. But, I’d love to see the tables turned on a few of these douchebags.