BuzzFeed was high on the amount of excitement and controversy they generated by publishing an unverified intelligence dossier last month, replete with information that made it seem as though President Donald Trump was in cahoots with the Russian government.
Now, they are being sued.
XBT Holdings, a tech firm whose name shows up in the dossier, is filing a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed, editor Ben Smith, and former British spy Christopher Steele – the man behind the disputed report.
“The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev,” the company said in a statement. “The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier.”
Most of the mainstream press denounced BuzzFeed’s reckless decision to publish the dossier in full, but Smith defended the choice as one he would make again. Included in the claims were allegations that Trump was in collusion with the Russian government in regards to the DNC hacks and that he was beholden to Vladimir Putin as a result of either bribery or blackmail.
In addition to defaming Trump, however, the dossier also named Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev as a significant participant in the conspiracy. BuzzFeed later removed his name from the memos, but the lawsuit alleges that the damage to Gubarev’s “personal and professional reputation” had already been done.
“We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report,” XBT said in their statement. “We are confident that the courts will review the evidence of our non-involvement and provide fair and reasonable compensation from the perpetrators of this outrageous allegation.”
BuzzFeed and other American news organizations enjoy vast First Amendment protections, but those protections do not allow them to destroy people’s lives with unsubstantiated rumors. Ben Smith knew full well that he was violating every tenet of ethical journalism when he put that dossier up on the internet, and he went ahead and did it anyway. Like Gawker before them, BuzzFeed is about to realize that their liberal readers can’t save them from the consequences of their own arrogant lawlessness.