Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"This is not a fight about who invented email," argues Mike Masnick, who started Techdirt in the mid-’90s as an irreverent take on business developments in technology. "This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like." (Photo by Flickr user Greg Peverill-Conti)

Fighting for Techdirt and All Independent Media

Timothy Karr

 by Free Press

Anyone who’s followed Techdirt’s reporting and analysis over the years knows how vital this news outlet has been when it comes to clearing the fog that often clouds policy debates about Net Neutrality, broadband access, spectrum allocation, copyright reform and media ownership.

Founder Mike Masnick’s incisive reporting and piercing commentary during the fight against the SOPA and PIPA legislation — which would have allowed the film and recording industries to black out huge tracts of internet content without due process — undercut Hollywood’s bogus claims in support of these bad bills.

"We can’t allow those with means to use the legal process to silence independent reporting."

In his frequent coverage of Net Neutrality and other tech policy issues, Karl Bode skewers the sophistry of lobbyists, PR consultants and think tankers on the payroll of the big phone and cable companies.

It's not enough for these and other Techdirt writers to be on the right side of an issue. They bring a healthy skepticism to all arguments, even calling out Free Press on occasion.

Techdirt is a trusted source that keeps us all honest. Yet for doing so Techdirt has earned itself a few enemies.

The publication is now in the battle of its life against Shiva Ayyadurai (pictured), a sometime technologist who claims he invented email. Techdirt’s alleged infraction in this $15 million lawsuit is publishing a series of stories that cite credible sources disputing Ayyadurai’s claims.

Techdirt’s defense against this lawsuit is as strong as Ayyadurai’s claim that he invented email is weak. In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that plaintiffs bringing defamation lawsuits against publishers must prove that the statements in question are false, and that the speaker actually knew they were false or seriously doubted them when they were published. But the costly process of fending off Ayyadurai’s lawyers could shutter Techdirt for good.

“This is not a fight about who invented email,” writes Masnick, who started Techdirt in the mid-’90s as an irreverent take on business developments in technology. “This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.”

Destroying Techdirt is likely Ayyadurai’s intention, even if he knows he will lose the case. To put the outlet out of business he’s hired Charles Harder, the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in his successful suit against Gawker. Harder also wrote threatening emails to New York magazine in an attempt to silence its groundbreaking reporting on disgraced former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. Future First Lady Melania Trump has also secured Harder’s services, in an apparent effort to silence any unflattering reporting about her that might appear.

Few independent publications have the means to defend themselves against frivolous defamation lawsuits. Often they’re forced into unfair settlements simply to avoid the costs of going to court against deep-pocketed, thin-skinned plaintiffs.

We can’t allow those with means to use the legal process to silence independent reporting. The First Amendment is supposed to protect dissenting views in a democracy. That some prominent individuals are violating this spirit is great cause for concern, which is why Free Press is urging everyone who cares about independent media to support Techdirt’s fight and tell others to do the same.

Techdirt has been fair and honest over the years. It’s time to stand up for it — and for a free and independent press.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Timothy Karr

Timothy Karr

Timothy Karr is the senior director of strategy for Free Press Action Fund, the advocacy organization that fights for everyone’s rights to connect and communicate. Follow him on Twitter: @TimKarr.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Stop Line 5': Valve Turner Forces Shutdown of Enbridge Oil Pipeline in Michigan

"We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Delay Is the New Denial': Study Confirms 99.9% of Scientists Agree on Climate

"It's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

Brett Wilkins ·


Exposed: How Pfizer Exploits Secretive Vaccine Contracts to Strong-Arm Governments

"Pfizer has used its monopoly on a lifesaving vaccine to extract concessions from desperate governments," said the report's author, urging action from the Biden administration.

Jessica Corbett ·


'A Toxic Presence in the Party': Ocasio-Cortez Joins Calls for Jay Jacobs to Resign

"India Walton is the Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo. No amount of racist misogyny from the old boys' club is going to change that."

Brett Wilkins ·


New Multimedia Report Details Unprecedented 'Permian Climate Bomb' in Texas

"If the Biden Administration wants to be serious about its promise to demonstrate U.S. climate leadership, it must first clean up its own backyard."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo