Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. ENOUGH.
October 17, 2017 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Writing a screenplay about outing abusers- so timely! Here are some legal and logistical questions, essentially: How best could a group of people share a secret online document that lists known abusers? Setting is Ontario Canada, and the legal aspects should be extremely accurate.

The characters are a group of women who want to keep track of which men in a small community have been accused of sexual misconduct. The whole community would be ~300 people, with about 30 women in the secret group- like a sorority within a college cohort. The list would end up with maybe 30 men's names, accused of varying degrees of misconduct.

The document must be virtual.

All of the women are loyal to the women's group at first, but some loyalties are later strained when the names of men they care about begin to show up on the list. The list would likely get leaked to specific abusers (who'd likely be humiliated and furious, so their actions would likely aim to protect their confidentiality, ensure exoneratrion in a trial, and maybe enact social revenge on their accusers)

How could these characters plausibly create their list?

1. Logistics-
How best could the characters share an online list that would make it unlikely for anyone finding the list to trace it back to a specific creator(s), or know specifically who informed on a given man?
Imagining a saved text document with a couple of trusted moderators, on a secret Facebook group... women privately tell a mod what happened, and she adds info to a list and never discloses who told her. Having more than one mod helps increase plausible deniability- nobody remembers who added that name, sorry!

2. Naming & Descriptions-
Could the list involve slightly-encoding or somehow altering how they discuss the names & offenses of the accused, so that if the document were found, it wouldn't count as libel? Would any of these work:
Coded name: "Warvey Heinwein is a rapist"?
Real name + "alleged": "Harvey Weinstein is an alleged rapist"?
Hypothetical situation: "If you were casting an actor to play a power-hungry rapist, you could cast Warvey Weinwein- he'd be great!"
Blind item: "This big man, major studio head, Broadway musicals, is a rapist!"
Other options?

3. Later trials-
Let's say that some of these men are later (individually) brought to trial for their behaviour.
Could the contents of the list somehow compromise the efficacy of the trial? How? Any way to prevent that?

4. Other concerns-
Anything else that could affect the plot?
posted by pseudostrabismus to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In case this wasn't inspired by the Shitty Media Men list that went slightly viral last week, check out some of the writing/tweets about that.
posted by acidic at 10:32 PM on October 17, 2017

Is there a directory, list, etc of the 300 group? Maybe it could be a page, column, number of the name of that person.

pg 4, left column, 9 down.

Maybe abbreviation for the misconduct? From inappropriate to rape?

Someone figures it out.
posted by beccaj at 10:33 PM on October 17, 2017

It might be out of character but this kind of thing is pretty much what Freenet was made for.

Encryption and anonymity is built in to the very nature of the protocols, definitely an overlooked gem for when you need hardcore privacy and deniability.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:47 AM on October 18, 2017

A shared Google Doc would work. You can share a GD in two ways. 1) Only people with the URL can see it 2) Shared to specific email addresses.

Anyone who wasn't silly would use #2 for this, but the doc can still be printed. Which is how I imagine people on it would see it in due course.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:47 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Right now I'm a member of a private Facebook group for a certain region that its female members use entirely for this purpose.
posted by annathea at 6:16 AM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Canada's defamation law is fairly broad in terms of how it acknowledges that something is recognizably about someone else. It's also based largely on common law, which means there aren't entirely clear standards of what makes something sufficiently recognizable. My non-expert impression based on what I remember from my entertainment law class is that none of those options would clearly negate any possibility of a defamation finding against someone who used them.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:25 AM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

On the old "Dick List" on Disgruntled Housewife let's say you wanted to report on Joe Blow who date raped you - you would write Joe B***, Oakland, CA (with the exact amount of stars for the missing last name letters). Then write about what happened to you. Yes, everyone in Oakland will know exactly who you are talking about and yet it is not really saying his name. I AM NOT A LAWYER. This is not legal advice.
posted by cda at 1:44 PM on October 24, 2017

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