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Defamation Plaintiff Beats Buzzfeed at its Own Clickbait Game

Last week, lawyers for the plaintiffs in a defamation case against the hugely popular website Buzzfeed gave the site a taste if its own medicine. In the case, the plaintiffs sought damages for defamation following Buzzfeed’s publication of a dossier linking them to unsavory conduct and characters surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Buzzfeed is known for its “clickbait” (sensational) titles and its use of listicles (articles presented wholly or partially in the form of a list). The plaintiffs skillfully employed both of these techniques in their opposition to the defendants’ motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to transfer the case to another district. As seen below, the motion’s clickbait title is “Six Ways Buzzfeed has Misled the Court (Number Two Will Amaze You)…and a Picture of a Kitten.” The six ways correspond to the brief’s six point headings. Brilliant!

The brief also contains a masterful opening paragraph that skillfully combines understatement and snark:

In a somewhat remarkable Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs [sic] Buzzfeed, Inc. (“Buzzfeed”) and Ben Smith (“Mr. Smith”) intimate that their ties to Florida are so sparse that, collectively, they can barely find Florida on a map and that, as a result, the present case should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or transferred to the Southern District of New York. You can read the whole brief by clicking on the image below:

You can read the whole brief by clicking on the image below:

Plaintiffs' brief in Gubarev v. Buzzfeed

The plaintiffs’ tactic wouldn’t work if they didn’t have what looks like a rock-solid position. Moreover, since the rest of the brief is crisply and powerfully written, I’m certain the court will get a chuckle out of the relatively small bit of humorous content.

Although I’ve frequently expressed my view that images should be included in briefs or opinions only when they serve a rhetorical purpose (see, for example, this article), I must admit that I was disappointed that the promised kitten picture wasn’t included in the brief: instead, it was attached as an exhibit to the declaration the plaintiffs submitted in opposition to the motion to dismiss. In any event, here’s the picture:

Of course, no article discussing Buzzfeed and clickbait would be complete without its own listicle. Accordingly, I hereby give you:

Five Source Articles About Unusual Briefs or Opinions


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