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BuzzFeed hit with $11m defamation lawsuit by viral news site

Viral news site Central European News (CEN) has claimed that BuzzFeed defamed it last year with an article called ‘The King of Bullsh*t News’ and is now suing the site for more than $11m.

Last April, BuzzFeed published an investigative piece where it called out CEN for publishing fake stories that have a propensity to go viral.

Examples of CEN stories that BuzzFeed said were actually false included one about a Russian fisherman who was saved from a bear attack by a Justin Bieber ringtone and another about a teacher accused of sleeping with her student.

Now, CEN and its head Michael Leidig are suing BuzzFeed in federal court, claiming false and defamatory allegations. The lawsuit is demanding $5m each for Michael Leidig and the agency, as well as a further $1m for lost business opportunities.

In the complaint, CEN states that “many clients of plaintiff CEN simply stopped using its news service with no inquiry about whether the charges in defendant’s publication were true or false” and “as a direct result of defendant’s publication, plaintiff CEN lost a potential high-six-figure investment that had been in the works for many months.”

Leidig said he wrote to BuzzFeed’s editor, Janine Gibson offering to "settle this without any money needing to change hands, if they removed the article and apologised.

“At that stage it might still have been possible to rescue certain investments and undo the damage. This olive branch was ignored and as BuzzFeed is not regulated by any independent body, the only alternative was to take legal action."

A spokesperson for BuzzFeed told The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re aware that the suit was filed, but we don’t comment on potential litigation.”