Libel Lawsuit Allowed to Move Forward in #TheyLied Sexual Harassment Allegations

In a report by Chief Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell (D. Mass.), the Koppel v. Moses case is discussed. This case involves former students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who belonged to a student organization called the Student Information Processing Board (“SIPB”). Following certain events, the SIPB leadership requested that Koppel refrain from participating in the group, which was communicated by Moses, the organization’s chair, in two emails. Koppel then brought a defamation claim against Moses, asserting that the emails were false and defamatory. The report recommends denying Moses’s motion for summary judgment.

The report focuses on two statements made in the emails, both of which were related to allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct. The first statement described Koppel’s interactions as “severe, consistent, and widespread,” while the second statement claimed that Koppel had been given opportunities to change his behavior but failed to do so. The report concludes that a jury could find the first statement to be false based on the record, as only a small number of reported incidents actually involved severe interactions indicative of sexual harassment or misconduct. The second statement also allows for the conclusion that it was false, as there is little indication that Koppel was given opportunities to change or received requests to stop the alleged behavior.

The report also suggests that a jury could find that Moses published the first statement with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity, considering the limited number of severe interactions and the lengthy time period over which these incidents occurred. Similarly, a jury could conclude that Moses did not believe or have reasonable grounds to believe that Koppel had been given several opportunities or asked to stop the behavior on more than one occasion. Ultimately, the report recommends that the libel lawsuit over the allegations of sexual harassment proceed.