MIAMI (CN) – Buzzfeed does not have to name the source who gave the online media outlet access to the controversial Donald Trump-Russia dossier, a federal judge ruled.
On Jan. 10, 2017, Buzzfeed published an article, and the unverified dossier by the former British M16 intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, claiming that the Kremlin tapped Russian tech executive and entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev’s companies, XBT Holding S.A. and Webzilla Inc., to hack the Democratic Party’s computers to sabotage the U.S. election.
According to the order signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan on Dec. 21, the article claimed XBT and Webzilla used botnets and porn to “transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data, and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democrat Party leadership.”
Gubarev denied these assertions and filed a defamation suit against Buzzfeed and its editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit.
In late February, the defendants successfully petitioned that the case me moved to federal court in Miami on diversity of jurisdiction grounds.
In November, Gubarev asked the court to compel Buzzfeed to reveal the source who gave it access to the dossier, But O’Sullivan declined to do so last week, concluding Gubarev did not adequately prove that he couldn’t access the information elsewhere.
While Buzzfeed argued that Florida common law, Florida Shield Law, New York law, and the First Amendment protects their source, Judge O’Sullivan said there are still pending depositions that could reveal the source.
Gubarev is attempting to depose Steele, and has served deposition subpoenas to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Mother Jones, CNN, and Yahoo!News, among others.
O’Sullivan said that, through third-party discovery, the source could be revealed, and thus denied Gubarev’s request to make Buzzfeed reveal the source.
The parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.