Two lawsuits, filed in the state of Florida and in London, UK, seek to collect financial and reputation damages over fake news reporting contained in BuzzFeed’s January 10 story that has been viewed nearly 6 million times.
The story, based on a 35-page dossier, accused XBT Holdings, owned by Russian tech wiz Aleksey Gubarev, of “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” in 2016.
To protect his brand from these allegations, which Gubarev called “fake news” in an interview with RT, his team of lawyers filed a defamation suit against Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered.
“We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report,” a statement by XBT said. “The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier.”
The Florida lawsuit has called the January 10 report “one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern ‘journalism,’” because the publication failed to check the facts.
When it published the dossier, BuzzFeed itself noted that it contained errors and that its claims had not been verified. Yet the report was made public.
“Buzzfeed and Smith published these allegations without having even taken the most basic step of contacting the Plaintiffs to ask if the allegations had any merit,” Florida’s court document reads.
Following the publication of the scandalous report, Donald Trump slammed BuzzFeed’s story a “failing pile of garbage.” The information in the report was “false and fake and never happened,” Trump said.
Moscow called the report a “fabrication” not even worth being discussed, with President Vladimir Putin later saying that authors behind the paper “have no moral scruples.”
On Friday, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told McClatchy that they have issued an apology to Gubarev and that they “have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”
Besides going after Buzzfeed and its editor-in-chief, Gubarev also decided to sue the alleged author of the report. Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence in London were named as defendants in the UK suit.
Following the publications of Steele’s invention, Gubarev “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters,” XBT pointed out, adding that his family’s security was compromised as well.
In an interview with RT, Gubarev who has not lived in Russia for 15 years, called the report “fake news,” saying that he still does “not understand why our names [are] there and we do not understand a reason for this report in general.” The XBT chief said he and his company “are open for any investigation” to prove the falseness of these claims, and adds that they have “nothing to hide.”