Far too many journalists and media outlets have put aside journalistic standards of integrity and veracity to promote their own political narrative, but one victim of the fake news epidemic has taken action to fight back — legal action.
Cassandra Fairbanks, a journalist and outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, announced on June 1 that she had filed a defamation suit against Emma Roller, a writer for the pop culture website Fusion and opinion contributor to The New York Times.
The basis for the suit stemmed from an April tweet in which Roller accused Fairbanks of making a “white power hand gesture” in a photograph with journalist Mike Cernovich in the White House press briefing room, according to the New York Daily News.
“Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House,” Roller wrote in the tweet, attaching an image of Fairbanks and Cernovich holding their thumbs and index fingers together with the other three fingers flared — otherwise known as the “OK” sign.Roller has since deleted the tweet, but only after learning of Fairbanks’ lawsuit. In the meantime, it was shared more than 6,000 times, according to BuzzFeed.
British media site The Independent also used the tweet as the centerpiece of an article that was shared more than 45,000 times and portrayed Fairbanks in a negative light.
The suit alleged that the tweet was an invasion of privacy and libel, and that Roller refused to take it down when Fairbanks asked, even upon showing that the gesture was not a “white power” signal.
“Within days of this false story by Roller – spread to the world through her Twitter account and then throughout the internet – the (Anti-Defamation League) itself denounced this claim as a ‘hoax’ noting that the ‘ok’ sign had ‘never’ been a white power signal,” the complaint read.
Furthermore, instead of correcting the false information to the thousands of people who likely believed it to be true, Roller simply deleted the tweet.
Fairbanks said Roller “acted with actual malice when she published the caption either with actual knowledge that the caption was not true or with reckless disregard as to its truth.”
She further alleged that the situation had caused her emotional distress and asked for at least $100,000 in damages.
While we don’t know how this lawsuit will play out, we do know that the fake news epidemic has gone too far and media sources need to be held accountable for spreading information they know to be false.