Twit­ter seeks to dis­miss B.C. busi­ness­man’s law­suit over al­leged defam­a­tory tweets

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Laura KANE

VAN­COU­VER — Twit­ter Inc. is ask­ing the Bri­tish Columbia Supreme Court to dis­miss or stay a defama­tion law­suit filed by a lo­cal busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist be­cause the court lacks ju­ris­dic­tion.

The so­cial me­dia com­pany has filed an ap­pli­ca­tion in re­sponse to a law­suit by Frank Gius­tra, the founder of Lion­s­gate En­ter­tain­ment and CEO of the Fiore Group of Com­pa­nies.

He al­leges in a state­ment of claim that Twit­ter pub­lished a num­ber of “false and defam­a­tory” tweets about him and has ne­glected or re­fused to re­move many of the posts de­spite his re­peated re­quests.

Gius­tra sits on the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion board, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, and says the tweets es­ca­lated dur­ing the 2016 United States elec­tion, ac­cus­ing him of be­ing in­volved in “piz­za­gate,” a de­bunked child sex traf­fick­ing con­spir­acy the­ory.

Twit­ter says in its ap­pli­ca­tion that the court should ei­ther dis­miss or stay the ac­tion or de­cline ju­ris­dic­tion in favour of the courts in Cal­i­for­nia, where the com­pany is head­quar­tered.

The com­pany says if Gius­tra wants to pur­sue the ac­tion, he should do so in Cal­i­for­nia where most wit­nesses and doc­u­ments are lo­cated and where any judg­ment granted in his favour could be en­forced.

Twit­ter says in its ap­pli­ca­tion filed in June that it pro­vides a “plat­form for ex­pres­sion” and none of the tweets at is­sue in Gius­tra’s claim were writ­ten or posted by the com­pany.

It says it be­lieves users should be safe in ex­press­ing their views and that it has a com­mu­nity of on­line safety ex­perts who de­velop and en­force rules and poli­cies to pro­hibit abu­sive and threat­en­ing be­hav­iour.

“Given the vol­ume of users and tweets, Twit­ter can­not proac­tively screen all con­tent posted on the plat­form and re­lies, in part, on user re­ports in or­der to iden­tify con­tent that vi­o­lates its rules and poli­cies,” it says.

Gius­tra’s state­ment of claim filed in April says he faced a tar­geted at­tack on Twit­ter by a group who set out to vil­ify him for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses start­ing around Fe­bru­ary 2015.

“Those pub­li­ca­tions in­cluded tweets stat­ing that the plain­tiff is ‘cor­rupt,’ a ‘mur­der­ous thief,’ a ‘crim­i­nal,’ and is in­volved in ‘piz­za­gate,’ ” it says, re­fer­ring to the un­founded con­spir­acy the­ory that claimed Democrats har­bour child sex slaves at a pizza restau­rant in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

His law­suit al­leges Twit­ter also pub­lished threat­en­ing posts, in­clud­ing sug­ges­tions that Gius­tra be killed with two “bul­lets to the back of his head.”

He says the tweets have dam­aged his pro­fes­sional and per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion and caused “sig­nif­i­cant emo­tional dis­tress and anx­i­ety” for him and his fam­ily.

Gius­tra wants two manda­tory per­ma­nent in­junc­tions: one re­quir­ing Twit­ter to re­move or pre­vent pub­li­ca­tion of the tweets, and another re­quir­ing Twit­ter to mon­i­tor for and pre­vent defam­a­tory tweets in the fu­ture. He’s also seek­ing gen­eral dam­ages and costs.

None of the al­le­ga­tions has been proven in court.

Gius­tra could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

The com­pany says it took ac­tion in re­sponse to sev­eral let­ters and emails sent by Gius­tra from 2016 through 2019 re­quest­ing that it re­move cer­tain tweets.

Twit­ter ex­plains that if a tweet vi­o­lates a rule or pol­icy, it re­quires users to re­move it be­fore they’re al­lowed to post again. The tweet is made pub­licly un­avail­able while the user re­moves it or ap­peals.

If the vi­o­la­tion was “egre­gious” or the user con­tin­ues the be­hav­iour, the com­pany may per­ma­nently sus­pend the ac­count.

The ap­pli­ca­tion says Twit­ter won’t take ac­tion if the tweet doesn’t vi­o­late a rule or pol­icy, and some­times users delete of­fend­ing tweets or de­ac­ti­vate their ac­counts be­fore the com­pany con­tacts them.

Twit­ter says it fol­lowed this process for the 98 tweets at is­sue in Gius­tra’s claim and as of late June, most have been re­moved and are un­able to be viewed in Canada.

Of the 18 tweets that re­main on the plat­form, eight are blocked in Canada but are ac­ces­si­ble out­side of the coun­try, it says.

It says that Gius­tra has a “sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence and rep­u­ta­tion” in Cal­i­for­nia, where he owns home in Bev­erly Hills.


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