Monday, July 10, 2006

Letter From Huffington Post's Lawyers

I had intended to stop writing about the HuffPuff affair some time ago, but when new things come up I think it is only fair to bring them to your attention.

And, based on my concerns last week in my post Identity Theft of "Peter Rost" Image and Name, I think it is also fair and balanced if I present Huffington Post's opinion. I can do this because their lawyers just wrote to my lawyer.

Just to refresh your memory, after I found the website the "Rost Post," on Monday, July 3, with my name and image, and a familiar name in the site meter, I also informed the Huffington Post about this. Later that day I received an e-mail, which I wrote about in E-Mail From Andy Yaco-Mink.

And then, things started to happen. I wrote about them in Our Own Little Troll. Suddenly, on July 5, a troll appeared on my site and he used a lot of legal terminology, and was very angry, and a very famous law firm, FRIEDMAN KAPLAN & SEILER also spent the entire day on my blog. And I wondered in my post if perhaps the angry troll had received some legal advice from this law firm.

We still don't know . . .

What we do know, is that today my lawyer forwarded a letter to me from--guess who?


They work for the Huffington Post.

Here's what they write:


We represent The Huffington Post, and write in response to the e-mail dated July 3, 2006, from your client, Peter Rost, to Michael Owen. In his e-mail, Dr. Rost complains of a parody website formerly located at ("Rost Post").

Please be advised that, based on our review (including an interview of Andy Yaco-Mink, as Dr. Rost requested), Mr. Yaco-Mink had nothing to do with Rost Post, and that his July 3, 2006, statement to Dr. Rost-"I did not create this site and was not aware of its existence until earlier today"-is correct. Please be further advised that none of The Huffington Post's employees or management had anything to do with the creation of Rost Post.

As Dr. Rost's inquires have been answered, and as Rost Post no longer exists, we trust this matter is closed.


So here are my reflections. First, I do appreaciate that the grown-ups at Huffington Post are finally taking charge and have started to investigate. Second, I don't think they'd do so unless they, just like me, found it disturbing that someone had put one of their employees' name in an obscure site meter on a site that impersonated me. After all, this investigation probably cost HuffPo in the range of $10,000.

The letter from FRIEDMAN KAPLAN & SEILER was dated July 6, so the investigation itself appears to have taken place on July 5. (July 4 was a holiday and I reported this to HuffPo on July 3.)

That means the law firm didn't have time to issue subpoeanas to relevant organizations, collect IP addresses, and ensure no one at HuffPo was involved. They probably had to rely on the employees saying they were not involved. They probably also didn't use a lie detector, since they didn't mention using such a device in their letter. (Just kidding. But wouldn't the result have been interesting?)

I also note that we didn't hear anything more from our own little troll after July 5.

Almost as if someone had told him to back off. Like a law firm which kept reading my blog, making sure everyone was behaving. But we don't know that. That's just speculation.

All in all, an interesting development.


Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed. I mean many back in HuffPo (including our dear Yaco-Mink) thought it was silly to think that an organization with intense visits your entries meant they have taken a special interest or have a client with special interest... How wrong were they!

Considering how HuffPo's lawyers came and did their research before doing their "investigation", we could very well say the same thing with other "intersting" visitors you have (though I wouldn't say ALL of them, but pretty sure SOME of them, are doing this for the same reason).

It's a shame they weren't silly enough to go with a defamation suit if you continue to blog about this issue... Other wise it WOULD BE a fun thing to blog enough ;)

Anonymous said...

*a threat of* defamation suit I mean.

Peter Rost said...

This is a very skilled law firm. They look at all their options.

Reality is that smart people, and lawyers, don't take a fight unless they really have to or are forced to.

It is better to solve things other ways.

We all have to chose what we focus on. One troll is not worth a fight, just to find out the full truth.

Defamation and libel is something that takes place if someone knowingly distributes untrue information that is harmful to someone. That's the reason I keep emphasizing things like the fact that someone's name is on a site meter doesn't mean the person with that name did it.

It is also one reason I have a prominent legal disclaimer, just in case I miss something or if I'm wrong.

In this case, the full truth is likely to remain shrouded in mystery, since no one is likely to want to spend the money and energy on solving it.

Anonymous said...

And that is what the real shame is. No-one really wants to know the truth. It's easier to simply pretend something else happened and continue on our merry way.

It's perhaps the single greatest hypocrisy of Huffingpost. That they are always talking about digging for the truth. That congress should hold investigations. That Bush* should be investigated.

And on and on.

YET, when there is a problem within their own ranks, all of a sudden they lawyer up, say nothing is wrong and anything you hear is from some crackpot, disgruntled ex employee who is out to get 'em.

What is the saying Doc?

Physician heal thy self?

Seems like Huffingpost could take a few lessons in fixing their own problems before going after anyone else.

It only deepens their hypocrisy.

I still go there and occasional post, but rarely and just read a few of the stories and then move on.

Peter Rost said...

Yeah, if I was HuffPo, I'd certainly want to know whose IP address was behind this thing. After all, that would be a real "investigation." Then again, perhaps they don't want to know . . .

Anonymous said...

Knowing would lead to culpability and we know that the HuffPuff has no such thing as personal accountabillity. You got such a raw deal in this whole turn of events (well maybe not, you're more popular than ever AND you have shown people the true face of Arianna Huffington)

It's a shame, I really did like that site; it was intellegent and thoughtful but now it's just a breeding ground for marketing mayhem. I don't think Yaco-Mink is really the bad guy here, That Jonah Perretti guy needs to be knocked off of his high horse. Just because he coined a phrase and got one internet joke going does not make him a genius. He's just a spoiled little bastard who is a lot of talk and no delivery.

Sorry for being nasty towards people, that's not normally my way but people like Jonah and Andy make real IT developers like myself look bad.

Anonymous said...

"I pay you to investigate me and you say I didn't do it, ok?"

GREAT IDEA! and we laughed....