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It started as the online equivalent of a crude locker room conversation — a bunch of not-so-diplomatic people rating women at Yale Law School and making sexually explicit comments about them.

The sophomoric banter escalated into a federal defamation lawsuit filed last summer in New Haven, Conn., by two women against roughly 40 anonymous users of a message board on the Web site AutoAdmit.com. Also named in the original suit was a discussion group moderator, a former University of Pennsylvania student who this month countersued the women and their lawyers.

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