BuzzFeed Faces $10m New York Libel Action Over Smear on Rival

by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Decorated investigative journalist takes high profile legal action after online rival brands him “King of Bulls*it News”

Questions have been raised over the motives and validity of this BuzzFeed investigation into a rival news organisation

BRITISH news agency Central European News (CEN) has filed a $10 million legal action against BuzzFeed alleging unfair competition and libel.

CEN, a well-established news organisation, has called in New York-based attorney Harry Wise III to lead its case against BuzzFeed, claiming the online giant deliberately set out to damage its business.

The complaint alleges among other things that one of BuzzFeed’s business objectives was “to obtain a greater share of the market for viral news in Great Britain and elsewhere around the world”.

It said that BuzzFeed “maliciously intended” to damage CEN’s business in order to benefit its own business, and claimed it was not the first time BuzzFeed had published stories without worrying whether they were true or false.

PR Agency highlights viral news website's corruption scandalThe complaint demands $5 million each for Michael Leidig, pictured, and the agency, as well as a further $1.04 million for lost business opportunities, plus punitive damages in a jury trial that could see the amount rise far higher than $11.04 million being sought.

The complaint comes after BuzzFeed published an almost 7,000 word article in April 2015 which described CEN as “one of the Western media’s primary sources of tantalising and attention-grabbing stories”, but went on to insist its stories were “often inaccurate or downright false”.

Harry Wise, a litigator specialising in international business disputes, filed the complaint in the district court in the southern district of New York this week.

He said: “The BuzzFeed story accuses Mr. Leidig, an experienced and award-winning journalist, of the worst thing you can accuse a journalist of – fraud.

“It is unfortunate that BuzzFeed refuses to recognize that its story is completely unfounded, and has done terrible damage to Mr Leidig and his company.

“We look forward to demonstrating those things in court.”

Michael Leidig, CEN’s CEO, said that when he had been first contacted by BuzzFeed they had pretended that they wanted to write a feature on CEN’s “laudable investigative journalism”.

However, when the final BuzzFeed report was published, it made no mention of the agency’s public interest journalism – despite the fact that, in 2006, a three-part series Mr Leidig produced for the Sunday Telegraph on the trafficking of women was nominated for an Amnesty award and also won the Paul Foot award, a British award for exceptional journalism.

Following the publication of the incendiary BuzzFeed article in April, CEN responded by producing a 126-page response a month later. It was published as a book on Amazon, called Buzz Bottom Feeders.

Mr Leidig added: “I wrote to BuzzFeed’s newly-appointed editor Janine Gibson offering to settle this without any money needing to change hands, if they removed the article and apologised.

“At that stage it might still have been possible to rescue certain investments and undo the damage. This olive branch was ignored and as BuzzFeed is not regulated by any independent body, the only alternative was to take legal action.”

Note to Editors

Buzz Bottom Feeders – How BuzzFeed tried to destroy a rival business, is available on Amazon in both electronic and print form here:

To contact Michael Leidig with questions please email on [email protected]

To contact Harry Wise with questions please email on [email protected]

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Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

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