A British Columbia businessman and philanthropist is suing Twitter for publishing what he calls “false and defamatory” tweets that escalated during the 2016 United States election.
Frank Giustra is the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment and CEO of the Fiore Group of Companies, as well as a member of the board of trustees of the Clinton Foundation.
He says in a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court that he faced a targeted attack on Twitter by a group who set out to vilify him for political purposes starting around February 2015.
“Twitter began publishing a number of defamatory and malicious statements regarding the plaintiff,” says the notice of civil claim, filed on Tuesday.
“Those publications included tweets stating that the plaintiff is ‘corrupt,’ a ‘murderous thief,’ a ‘criminal,’ and is involved in ‘pizzagate,”’ it states, referring to an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims Democrats harbour child sex slaves at a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.
Twitter also published threatening posts, which included suggestions that Giustra be killed with two “bullets to the back of his head,” the claim says.
None of the allegations has been proven in court and Twitter has not yet filed a statement of defence. Twitter declined comment on Saturday, while Giustra could not immediately be reached for comment.
Giustra says in the civil claim that he asked Twitter on multiple occasions to remove the posts and the social-media company deleted some of them, but it has neglected or refused to remove others and continues to publish a “large number” of false, defamatory, abusive and threatening tweets.
He says the tweets have damaged his professional and personal reputation and caused “significant emotional distress and anxiety” for him and his family.
“The false allegations and criticism about the plaintiff engaging in fraud brings the plaintiff’s honesty and integrity as a businessman into disrepute,” the civil claim says.
“Further, the tweets falsely characterize the plaintiff as a pedophile which impairs his ongoing involvement with the important and socially beneficial children’s charities that the plaintiff operates or assists.”
Giustra wants a mandatory permanent injunction requiring Twitter to delete, remove, cease or prevent publication of the tweets, as well as a mandatory permanent injunction requiring the company to prohibit publication by its users of materials that are defamatory of the plaintiff on an indefinite basis. He’s also seeking general damages and costs.