As the torrent of accusations continues, it is unlikely to be the last
Social media has overflowed with sexual misconduct allegations during the last few weeks. The 450-word post that Melanie Kohler put on Facebook probably had the shortest life — a few hours. It may also have been the first to get its author sued.
As the torrent ofcontinues, it is unlikely to be the last.
“The lid is off,” said Mark G Clark, a Michigan lawyer specialising in online defamation cases. “Power to the people. Anyone can have their grievance heard. But at the same time, anyone can be irresponsible and malicious.”
He noted that Facebook and Twitter see themselves as neutral platforms that cannot take a side in disputes. So the aggrieved call lawyers. “We get inquiries daily: ‘I’ve been defamed online. What can you do to help?’” Clark said.
Kohler, who runs a scuba diving company in Hawaii with her husband, had both narrow and far-reaching goals when she wrote her Facebook post on October 18.
She wanted to unburden herself of something horrible that she said had happened to her, something that she had never told a single soul before that morning. Describing a drunken night about a decade ago, she wrote about Brett Ratner, a Hollywood producer and director.
“Brett Ratner raped me,” Kohler wrote on Facebook. “I’m saying his name, I’m saying it publicly.”
She was inspired by the national uproar over sexual harassment, but did not really think about joining that larger conversation. The post was intended for her family and friends, and they responded immediately. “I was feeling really loved and supported,” Kohler said in an interview. But such is the nature of Facebook that others quickly read it as well, including an associate of Ratner’s. His attorney, Martin Singer, called before lunch. “I was totally caught off guard,” Kohler said. ()