Anonymous Diet Madison Avenue Instagram account could soon be unmasked

The people behind an anonymous Instagram account in which shook up the advertising industry with its attempts to take down alleged sexual harassers appear one step closer to being revealed.

Over a year ago, the advertising industry was fascinated along with unnerved by the emergence of an anonymous Instagram account called “Diet Madison Avenue.” The account aimed to expose sexual harassment along with discrimination at ad agencies. This particular claimed This particular was run by a collective of 17 men along with women working within the ad industry, with the help of more than 40 others. Its profile at one point included a link to whistleblowers’ rights along with the words: “Exposing sexual harassment & discrimination in ad agencies since Oct 2017, cuz HR won’t. Stories researched & confidential.”

After being fired as the chief creative officer of ad agency Crispin Porter Bogusky in Boulder, Ralph Watson filed a defamation lawsuit against the Instagram account in May 2018. In This particular, he claimed Diet Madison Avenue’s defamatory statements led to his wrongful termination by the agency, which will be part of holding company MDC Partners.

The Instagram account’s Stories called him a sexual harasser along with claimed he targeted along with groomed women. Since then, Watson has also filed a lawsuit in brand-new York against individuals he claims are behind the Instagram account in which live within the state (plus one allegedly living in Illinois along using a business entity), as well as his against former employer.

What happens next within the case could hold bearing on how freely individuals post online believing in which they’re anonymous. along with the unveiling of the individuals behind the account will no doubt send shockwaves through an industry for which Diet Madison Avenue helped kick off a “Me Too” reckoning.

The account primarily broadcast many messages through Instagram Stories, where This particular would certainly affix pig noses on photos of male ad leaders along with tell ad agencies “we’re watching you.” After their names were blasted to thousands of followers by Diet Madison Avenue, some big names in advertising separated by their agencies, including Droga5 chief creative officer Ted Royer, former Wieden & Kennedy London chief strategy officer Paul Colman, Martin Agency chief creative officer Joe Alexander along with Watson. The Instagram account has not posted a photo since 2018 along with did not respond to a direct message for comment.

In August, Watson’s obtained a court order to issue subpoenas to Facebook, Instagram along with Google to provide identifying information about the individuals behind the account along with certain Gmail accounts. Diet Madison Avenue sought to quash the subpoenas, yet a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the motion. The judge did rule in which Watson was only entitled to identification of the individual or individuals in which posted the stories, along with only obtain information by two days when DMA had posted allegedly defamatory statements against Watson. Google had already provided data before the February decision.

In a letter Watson’s attorney filed within the brand-new York case last week, he said Watson had been in contact with counsel for Facebook along with Instagram along with likely to receive the requested information within the week.

Google didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday. In an emailed statement, an Instagram spokeswoman said, “We respond to valid legal requests, yet don’t comment on specific cases.”

Attorneys for both Watson along with Diet Madison Avenue did not respond to requests for comment.

The case could have implications for how people behave online along with their belief in which what they do or post will be truly anonymous.

“People say things online along with think they’re largely hidden by discovery,” said Albert Gidari, consulting director of privacy at the Center for Internet along with Society at Stanford Law School. yet in many cases those individuals can be identified, he said.

The information Diet Madison Avenue used to set up its accounts would certainly have bearing on how quickly they’re identified. If the members used a real phone number or name, in which first round of subpoenas could find the identity of individuals. If not, the subpoena could reveal the IP address of whoever posted. Then, Watson’s camp might ask the internet service provider for any identifying information, like credit card information or a physical address.

If the posters were savvy enough, though, they may have opted to only post by a public WiFi connection, which would certainly make them tougher to track down.

“If you’re actually smart along with you want to defame somebody, you go to Starbucks, where This particular’s an open or public WiFi,” Gidari said.

If they identify a member of Diet Madison Avenue, the plaintiff’s side can replace the “Jane Doe” designation within the complaint using a real name. along with by there, Gidari doesn’t believe This particular would certainly be difficult to identify the rest. in which person would certainly be required to give a deposition under oath or have their computer imaged, which would certainly likely result in some other names.

“Basically if they get one name, This particular’s Humpty Dumpty. You’ll never put in which group back together again. They’re done,” Gidari said.

Matthew Tokson, associate professor of law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, says he’s interested to see how the case will be resolved. “The fact in which people are functionally anonymous a lot of times produces not bad things since people can speak freely, yet also produces a lot of bad stuff, like online abuse along with the spread of fake news,” he said.

“We don’t want people to be able to spread lies on the internet along with never be de-anonymized, yet we also don’t want to deter people by saying truthful things,” Tokson said.