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Solving a Puzzle for The New York Times

By Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai | June 30, 2016

CAMBRIDGE – Today’s New York Times carries a fawning article about Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media. The piece, by Times’ financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, explores Denton’s speculative concerns about the alleged funding of lawsuits brought against him and his sleazy websites. Those sites have featured, among other things, video depicting people secretly filmed having sex in a private bedroom.

That video, and a subsequent lawsuit, brought a $150 million dollar judgment against Gawker and Denton, whom Sorkin treats as if Denton were a serious journalist rather than a pornographer. Sorkin also refers to my own lawsuit against Gawker as “puzzling.” So let me solve that puzzle for him.

First, for the record, I am totally unaware of any behind-­the­-scenes financial arrangements involving my attorneys and anyone else ­­ which, in any case, would be irrelevant to the substance of my case. More to the point, a 2012 post on Gizmodo, a Denton­-owned site, begins with this libelous sentence: “V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai is a fraud who has been masquerading for years as the pioneering mind behind email.”

The article was extremely damaging to me personally and professionally ­­ to be called a “fraud” on a site with millions of viewers.

I am not a “fraud” and never have been. Leaving aside the issue of who is “the pioneering mind behind email” (whatever that means) fraudulence is a form of lying, and lying must include the intention to lie. When I truly believe and straightforwardly assert that I invented email, that assertion is in no way fraudulent. Calling me a fraud in a widely­read publication is blatantly libelous and legally actionable.

But that’s not all. Another 2012 Gizmodo piece says of me, “…he’s generally described by his colleagues [at MIT] as a nut and fraud—the terms ‘asshole’ and ‘loon’ were tossed around freely by professors who were happy to talk about their coworker but prefer to remain anonymous. ‘Don’t know him, but [he] didn’t invent email. If he claims to have done so he’s a dick.’”

This writer – Sam Biddle – conveniently invokes “anonymous sources”. The bottom line is that Biddle and Gawker publicly called me an “asshole,” a “loon,” and a “dick” in an online publication directed at the tech industry in which I work.

There have been very hurtful consequences of that article for me. Now there will be consequences for Nick Denton and his publications.

Why would that be puzzling to Andrew Ross Sorkin or anyone else?

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