TechCrunch grew into a blog juggernaut thanks to its no-holds-barred coverage of the staid tech start-up community. But yesterday it scrubbed a post about a Googler's sexual assault accusation. Does this have to do with their relationship to the accused?
On Thursday, Google technical writer Noirin Shirley accused Twitter software engineer Florian Leibert of sexual assault on her personal blog. TechCrunch staffer Alexia Tsotsis picked up the story, writing the post, "Googler Accuses Twitter Engineer Of Sexual Assault, Trial By Twitter Commences," late on Friday. By Saturday morning, however, the link was dead.
It's odd that TechCrunch, which had no qualms about publishing documents stolen from Twitter, scrubbed this post about a scandal involving employees of two of tech's biggest players. (Especially given that the average TechCrunch reader should be able to easily find a cached copy.)
Here's one possible reason: Florian Leibert, the accused, was a featured speaker at a TechCrunch "Beer and Data Salon" event last month. Participants paid $10 to drink beer, eat pizza and hear Leibert and three other hackers give "four minute lightning talks." (A fact first noticed by the blog Menustral Poetry.)
Is Leibert cozy with the right people at TechCrunch? Or did TechCrunch face pressure from their new corporate overlords at old-school AOL to take the post down? Or maybe someone just got a queasy feeling and backed off the story.
One thing's for sure: TechCrunch might dominate the breaking tech news game, but it's on unsure footing when it comes to a story that doesn't involve bits or dollars. Sort of like the tech community, actually!
We contacted Tsotsis for comment when the post was scrubbed but haven't heard back.
Update: TechCrunch columnist Paul Carr explains in a new post that the earlier post was removed because TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington has a "no personal drama" policy, and bats down the "slightly comical accusations that our new corporate owners had demanded that Mike Arrington pull the story (comical because I'm not entirely convinced anyone at AOL reads TechCrunch)".
Update 2: Interesting reason! Except, as pointed out in the comments, Michael Arrington has a history of leveling personal allegations with no more evidence than Shirley. In a scathing post just last week about his former Jason Calacanis he wrote:
His most shining moment – he got so drunk the night before the last day of the 2008 conference that he couldn't show up to be on stage until hours after the event started.
Clearly there's more to the scrubbing than some sort of journalistic honor code bullshit.