BuzzFeed Wins Steele Dossier Lawsuit

A federal judge in Florida sided with BuzzFeed in a defamation lawsuit filed by a Cyprus-based tech CEO over the infamous Steele dossier. Aleksej Gubarev, a CEO named in the dossier, alleged that the document’s statements about him were “false” and that BuzzFeed “never contacted” him to confirm the merits of the allegations—which included claims that he had hacked the Democratic Party. However, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro found that the website was covered by the “fair report privilege,” which protects the press in carrying out functions like providing “the public with the information it needs to exercise oversight of the government and with information concerning the public welfare.” Judge Ungaro found that the fair privilege applied in this case because the dossier was part of an “official proceeding.” The dossier—written by former British spy Christopher Steele—primarily focused on President Trump's ties with Russia. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the dossier claims Gubarev's company and its affiliates used “botnets and porn to transmit viruses and steal data to the detriment of the Democratic party.” In a statement, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said the company was “thrilled by today's outcome” and thanked Judge Ungaro for “taking the time to consider this case on the merits.”