A months-long war of words between CNN and Project Veritas has escalated into an actual libel suit. On Tuesday, James O’Keefe’s outfit filed a complaint in Georgia after a CNN anchor discussed Twitter’s suspension of Project Veritas and attempted to explain that “this is part of a much broader crackdown … by social media giants on accounts that are promoting misinformation.”
Project Veritas is more accustomed to being a defendant in court over its brand of ambush journalism. The conservative group has largely been successful in fending off suits for surreptitiously recording targets, but O’Keefe certainly tempts fate at times such as when he called into CNN’s edit meetings last year and then leaked taped comments from executives and staffers. That move had CNN suggesting broken laws. “We’ve referred it to law enforcement,” a network spokesperson said at the time.
Instead, it’s Project Veritas in court as plaintiff upon CNN’s discussion of the group’s suspension on Twitter.
“We’re starting to see companies crack down to try to stop the spread of misinformation and to hold some people who are spreading accountable,” said Ana Cabera on a Feb. 14 show. “For example, Twitter has suspended the account of Project Veritas, a conservative activist organization — at least that’s how they couch themselves with followers including Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump — but this is part of a much broader crackdown, as we mentioned, by social media giants on accounts that are promoting misinformation.”
Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media reporter, responded by noting that rules by social media companies had grown more strict and enforcement more confusing, and that groups like Project Veritas “got swept up in a Twitter policy by violating multiple rules on the site.”
Whether the context aids CNN in its defense remains to be seen, but for now, Project Veritas is keying on the notion that it was suspended for “promoting misinformation” when reportedly, the group was actually suspended for sharing people’s private information without consent. In other words, a different sin in the social media company’s eyes. But, at least according to Project Veritas, an important distinction.
A privacy violation “does not impugn the organization’s journalistic integrity and reputation; [An allegation of promoting misinformation] clearly does,” states the complaint.
“CNN was fully aware, and had extensively reported, on Twitter’s given reason for banning Project Veritas,” adds the complaint.
A spokesperson for CNN didn’t immediately respond to an opportunity to comment, although given the recent history between the two organizations, there seems to be the possibility of counterclaims.