Buzzfeed Sued for Libel Over Publication of Discredited Trump Dossier

Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith, Credit – FOTM

Last Friday, BuzzFeed and its Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith were officially sued by Cyprus-based Russian tech magnate Aleskej Gubarev and his company XBT Holdings on charges of libel and defamation. The libel charges revolve around the publication of a “secret” Trump dossier that was quickly discredited and led the President himself to publicly condemn the news organization as “fake news.” The plaintiff claimed that “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.”

The Florida lawsuit, which can be viewed in full at by clicking here, claims that the defendants, “chose to publish a ‘dossier’ of unverified information compiled by a private security company in which various allegations were made concerning, among other things, computer hacking allegedly carried out by persons or organizations with ties to Russia.” The computer hacking allegedly attributed to Gubarev’s company was none other than that which targeted the Democratic National Convention’s email server. The fallout from the publication of those leaked documents ultimately led to the resignation of DNC chair Diane Wasserman Schultz, and a formal apology from the DNC to Senator Bernie Sanders for “inexcusable remarks made over email”.

Further claims within the lawsuit accuse BuzzFeed of failing to make meaningful redactions and knowingly publishing portions of the dossier, which they say the defendants knew to be “untrue.” The suit goes so far as to claim that, although numerous reporters from several outlets attempted to contact Gubarev to verify the inflammatory claims, ”neither Buzzfeed nor Mr. Smith contacted the Plaintiffs to determine if the allegations made against them had any basis in fact” before they were published.

Additional charges were brought in another lawsuit against former British spy Christopher Steele and his private security company Orbis Business Intelligence who allegedly compiled the controversial dossier. The London suit involves the research conducted by Steele and his firm on behalf of Trump opponents, which was then made available to reporters, lawmakers and law enforcement. This resulted in significant national scrutiny of the materials after FBI director James Comey briefed both President Barack Obama and then Presdent-elect Donald Trump on the dossier. The dossier, published Jan 10, was purportedly, “a collection of memos written over a period of months” and alleges that the plaintiffs “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.” Included in the dossier are salacious and graphic claims of sexual acts allegedly performed by Trump and documented by Russia, all of which then president-elect Trump’s lawyer flatly denied. Trump himself took to Twitter calling the dossier, “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

Politico reported that BuzzFeed was quick to respond, issuing an apology and redacting Gubarev’s name and mention of his company from the dossier. The Jan 10th article that originally leaked the dossier now also includes a disclaimer which states that “The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.” However, the article has not been corrected or retracted, even in the face of these latest developments. Gubarev, who denies any involvement claims he was, “surprised to see his name in the report”, and is seeking damages of at least $15,000.

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