Cardi B Files A Lawsuit Against A YouTuber For Defamation

8 Mins

What just happened?

On Monday, Cardi B arrived at an Atlanta federal court to begin a lawsuit against a YouTuber she has accused of defamation, Billboard reports.

What does this mean?

In a 2019 lawsuit filed in the Atlanta branch of Georgia's Northern District Court, the rapper alleged that Latasha Kebe, who has 1 million subscribers on her unWinewithTashaK channel, waged a "malicious campaign" against her and became "obsessed" with the rapper. In several videos, the lawsuit alleges that Kebe made false statements about Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, including that she tested positive for herpes and drug abuse. The lawsuit, which Insider investigated, says the YouTuber knew that posting the video on Cardi B "would bring significantly more viewers to her content than usual."     

Billboard reported that Kebe denied the allegations and claimed in a $3 million counterclaim that Cardi B sent fans to harass her. According to the complaint, other videos posted by Kebe allege that Cardi B's unborn child is mentally handicapped and that the rapper "prostituted for a living". Additional allegations by Kebe that have come to light in the past two years of litigation include that Cardi B "participated in a humiliating act with a bottle of beer" and "committed adultery," according to Billboard.   

In November 2021, U.S. District Judge William Ray ordered the UCLA Women's Pelvic Health Center to send him "all medical records" related to herpes and HPV tests. After receiving the results, Judge Wray ruled that they were "useless" in the Kebe case.

How does this impact the legal sector?   

According to Law360, Kebe's attorney, Sadir Sabbak, urged jurors to "not judge" without context "because context is everything, especially in the media." "Everybody is familiar with humour, everybody is familiar with the point of view, and everybody needs context to appreciate it." In response, Cardi B's attorney Sarah M. Matz said, "It's no joke to say that people suffer from a very stigmatizing disease," and Kebe "knows that such a claim, if false, is defamation."     

Despite the lawsuit, Kebe has continued to upload videos to her YouTube channel for the most part, although the last time she mentioned Cardi B was posted six months ago. YouTube's terms of service state that the platform is not responsible for "any user-posted content or any user's defamatory, offensive, or unlawful conduct." According to its defamation complaint requirements, YouTube "will only consider legal complaints if the parties or their authorized legal representatives notify us."

Similarly to the case of Cardi B, in Jackson v. Universal Music Operations Ltd (2014), after an application for summary judgment, the High Court overturned a defamation charge because it had no realistic chance of success. Here the Plaintiff was an entertainment artist, and Defendant was a music company.

Subsequently, the Plaintiff uploaded the film to YouTube, a video-sharing website, later taken down from the host site after a complaint that part of the film's soundtrack was infringing on a copyright. The movie was replaced with the message, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright complaint." The Plaintiff filed a case against Defendant because Defendant contacted YouTube, which then published these words. The Plaintiff claimed that the message caused him permanent damage to his reputation, exacerbated by the fact that no distinction was made between his film soundtrack and the video as a whole.

In contrast to this, when the lawsuit first occurred in the Cardi B fiasco, in a lecture-filled decision for practitioners representing public figures, United States District Judge William M. Ray II denied Cardi B.'s request for a summary judgment on her pending libel suits, holding that a jury would better serve Cardi B.'s allegations.    

Cardi B filed a lawsuit against Kebe in March 2019 after Kebe posted at least 38 videos linking to the rapper on his YouTube channel "unWinewithTashaK", which has approximately 1 million subscribers and which Kebe calls "a drama-based blog". As stated in a recent ruling, Cardi B alleges that Kebe slandered her when she repeatedly published allegations that Cardi B was a prostitute, had multiple sexually transmitted infections, used cocaine, and committed adultery, among other things. Cardi B also claims that Kebe slandered her by posting a video interview with Starmary Jones in which Jones claimed that Cardi B "had herpes" and traded "sex for money".   

As a result, Cardi B is seeking punitive damages and attorney's fees for what she says amounts to libel, defamation, misrepresentation, and willful infliction of emotional distress. Cardi B claims that Kebe's claims are false and that Kebe was aware of the "probable falsehood" of the claims when he published them. Kebe used assault and emotional distress counterclaims against Cardi B, both of which were dismissed by the Court.    

According to the court decision, Kebe stated that she had received death threats on her social media account and her mobile phone "from people sent to do so by the plaintiff." As the Court summarized, Kebe said she contacted the FBI about alleged threats, fearing for her safety, experienced "stress, anxiety and depression" during a high-risk pregnancy, and was "forced to hand over her family."     

While the Court found that Kebe may have suffered such damage, Kebe did not establish any causal link between the alleged damage and Cardi B herself. Thus, Kebe did not provide evidence that Cardi B herself threatened Kebe, that led her to believe she would harm her or otherwise cause her distress. Following this, the Court dismissed both of Kebe's counterclaims. The Court also refused to uphold Cardi B's motion for summary judgment on her core claims, refusing to rule on her defamation as such and the IIED's claims in accordance with the law.     

During the investigation of untruth, the Court found that Kebe had "presented to the court through video evidence that the plaintiff had at least admitted" some of the defamatory acts, including sex work and illegal drug use, and that Kebe had suggested "a photograph that the plaintiff had posted on Internet, on which the plaintiff had visible herpes. In assuming the admissibility of such evidence, the Court concluded that a reasonable jury could presume that the alleged defamatory statements are true.     

Regarding the element of Georgia's guilt, the Court recognized Cardi B as a public figure for the defamation charge. Therefore, she must prove that Kebe acted with actual malice, that she made the statements knowing they were false, or with reckless disregard for their falsehood. The Court found genuine questions of material fact regarding malice, such as whether Star Jones was a "reliable source" for Kebe's statements, which a reasonable jury might disagree with. The Court also denied Cardi B's motion for summary judgment on her request for intentional emotional distress, finding that a reasonable jury could disagree that Kebe's statements could be considered "extreme behaviour and outrageous" under Georgia statute.     

In addition, the Court indicated that Georgia's IIED statute included four elements: "(1) intentional or reckless conduct, (2) that is extreme and outrageous, and (3) caused emotional stress, (4) that was severe." The Court considered it important that, given that Cardi B had moved to a summary judgment on the first two elements only, the IIED issue would have been better left to the jury in its entirety.    

This decision shows that at least some courts are reluctant to decide defamation cases following the law. It also suggests that courts may be reluctant to decide at the summary stage whether the defendant knew about the lie or was carelessly disinterested in it, especially when she relied on third party material. The Court also expressed reluctance to decide whether Kebe's statements constituted extreme and outrageous behaviour, leaving that determination to the jury.

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Written by Jason Connolly