BuzzFeed Sued For Defamation Over Trump Dossier 'Fake News'

BuzzFeed (as well as editor in chief Ben Smith and former British spy Christopher Steele) faces a new lawsuit over its publication of an unverified dossier of claims against President Trump and others, McClatchy reported Friday evening. In response to the lawsuit, Politico reports that BuzzFeed issued an apology on Friday evening (presumably admitting to publishing 'fake news').

McClatchy reports XBT Holdings, a tech firm with Russian ties named in the document, is suing over the January 10 publication of what the suit calls “libelous, unverified and untrue allegations.”

The dossier, which includes uncorroborated allegations about Trump, claims the Cyprus-based XBT, which is owned by Russian tech magnate Aleksej Gubarev, “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” in 2016.

In response to the lawsuit, Politico notes that BuzzFeed on Friday evening issued an apology and said that it had redacted Gubarev's name, and the names of his companies, from the dossier.

"We have redacted Mr. Gubarev's name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told POLITICO in a statement.

CNN Money and McClatchy were the first news organizations to report on the existence of the lawsuit against BuzzFeed. (You can read Gubarev's full defamation complaint against Buzzfeed here.)

"Although Buzzfeed and Mr. Smith claim that they had the dossier in their possession for weeks prior to its publication, and despite their claims that they had four reporters working near full-time on attempting to verify the claims made in the dossier, prior to publishing the Defamatory Article and the dossier, neither Buzzfeed nor Mr. Smith contacted the Plaintiffs to determine if the allegations made against them had any basis in fact," the complaint states.

 

"After the dossier’s publication numerous journalists (more than 30) contacted Mr. Gubarev with some even arranging to travel to Cyprus to discuss the publication with Mr. Gubarev. During this time, and up to the present day, neither Buzzfeed nor Mr. Smith contacted the Plaintiffs to determine if the allegations made against them had any basis in fact."

The complaint also states that Gubarev is not a public figure and that the publication of the dossier has ruined his reputation.

"Plaintiff Aleksej Gubarev, who is married with three young children is not, in any way, shape, or form, a public figure," the complaint states.

 

"As a result of Buzzfeed and Mr. Smith’s reckless publication of defamatory materials, he has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters. His wife has found herself a target of online harassment and the family’s personal security has been compromised."

Although BuzzFeed did not redact Gubarev's name when it first published the dossier, it did redact the names of a few other people mentioned in the dossier.

The lawsuit, filed in London and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, seeks unspecified damages, according to The Hill, and says BuzzFeed’s story has been viewed nearly 6 millions times.