B.C. billionaire suing Twitter for defamation over 'pizzagate'
Frank Giustra is shown in a photo from Twitter.
A B.C. billionaire is suing Twitter for defamation, saying his image was tarnished by messages posted online.
The notice of civil claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court this week by Frank Giustra, a West Vancouver businessman. Giustra is the CEO of the Fiore Group of Companies and the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, in addition to serving roles in philanthropic organizations.
"Leading up to the events described herein, the plaintiff had a valued and unblemished reputation," the notice reads.
But in February 2015, he was targeted online for political purposes related to the 2016 U.S. election, Giustra claims.
Referring to the series of posts on social media as a "targeted attack," the notice says an orchestrated campaign was launched to discredit Giustra, in part because of his work with the Clinton Foundation.
The notice of civil claim reads: "Twitter began publishing a number of defamatory and malicious statements regarding the plaintiff. Those publications included that the plaintiff is 'corrupt,' 'a murderous thief,' a 'criminal,' and is involved in 'pizzagate,' which is a false, discredited and malicious conspiracy theory in which the plaintiff was labeled a 'pedophile.'"
Pizzagate is an unfounded theory that Democrats in the U.S. harbour child sex slaves at a pizza restaurant located in Washington, D.C.
In Giustra's case, his legal team says in the notice that he was mentioned either by name or by his Twitter handle in posts alleging that he is a pedophile, supports pedophiles and abuses children. The notice says a suggestion was made that he was involved in the disappearance and deaths of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The posts also claimed he was corrupt, a criminal, a human and drug trafficker and other defamatory accusations, the notice says. Included with the notice of civil claim were nine pages of examples of the messages Giustra's legal team says were posted on Twitter.
The tweets were viewed and shared by multiple users, and further posts have been sent since the campaign began, Giustra's legal team says.
"The tweets have damaged the plaintiff's professional and personal reputation and are likely to bring the plaintiff's character into disrepute," the document filed in court claims.
In addition, it says, the tweets have damaged his business relationships and impaired his involvement in children's charities.
Giustra's lawyers say he notified Twitter multiple times, and requested the social network prevent further comments from being posted. Some of the tweets were pulled down, the notice says, but many remain.
"Twitter's actions demonstrate a reckless disregard for the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff, and constitute harassment of the plaintiff," the document says.
Giustra is seeking permanent removal of the tweets, as well as prevention of future similar messages. He's looking for a mandatory permanent injunction that would require Twitter to ban any users from posting defamatory tweets about him, as well as general damages and legal costs.
The company has about a month to respond to the civil claim. CTV News Vancouver has reached out to Twitter for response.