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Website Labeled ‘Fake News’ Demands Retraction From WaPo, Threatens Lawsuit

© AP Photo / Pablo Martinez MonsivaisWashington Post
Washington Post - Sputnik International
One of the over-200 websites labeled as “fake news” and “Russian propaganda” by so-called experts cited by the Washington Post is demanding a retraction and threatening a defamation lawsuit.

Washington Post headquarters - Sputnik International
Washington Post’s Piece on Fake News Promotes Fake List of Unreliable Sources
In an ironically fake news article about “fake news,” the Washington Post cited a website called PropOrNot, which lists over 200 websites that they accuse of peddling what they term Russian propaganda and other false narratives. The list includes popular news websites on all sides of the political spectrum, such as The Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, TruthOut, Sputnik News, and WikiLeaks.

One of the websites listed was Naked Capitalism, named one of the 25 Best Financial Blogs in 2011 by Time, and listed by Wired as a crucial site to follow for finance.

Naked Capitalism is a left-wing website that tends to be highly critical of Wall Street.

Now, the founder of the site, Yves Smith, is striking back and has published a letter to the Washington Post from their lawyer. On Naked Capitalism, Smith asserts that their attorney, Jim Moody, “is a seasoned litigator who has won cases before the Supreme Court. He has considerable experience in First Amendment and defamation actions. Past high profile representations include Westomoreland v. CBS and defending Linda Tripp.”

“Strong claims demand strong proofs, yet the [Washington] Post appeared content to give a megaphone to people who make stuff up with abandon,” Smith wrote of the Post’s article. “No wonder the members of PropOrNot hide as much as they can about what they are up to; more transparency would expose their work to be a tissue of lies.”

The letter to the Post, written by Moody, was addressed to publisher Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., executive editor Martin Baron, and Craig Timberg, who authored the piece. The letter demands that the article be immediately removed from the Washington Post website and all web-accessible archives, that the newspaper make a “prominent public apology,” and provide for Naked Capitalism to make an equally prominent response in their paper.

“You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” Moody writes. “You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”

The letter also asserts that claims published by the Washington Post have caused journalists at Naked Capitalism loss of reputation, and risk to future career advancement, citing difficulty passing a background or security check as a possible outcome.

"These serious allegations have caused and will continue to cause great harm to Naked Capitalism, including but not limited to damage to policy impact and reputation, diversion of scarce reporting and managerial resources to respond to concerned inquires and debunk this smear, loss of readers, and damage to the site’s profitability,” the letter continues. 

“Moreover, writers and editors associated with Naked Capitalism face ridicule, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and risk to future career advancement, including for example, difficulty passing background and security checks.”

US House of Representatives. (File) - Sputnik International
US Lawmakers Move to Criminalize ‘Fake News, Propaganda’ on the Web
Moody states that by affording anonymity to the “executive director” of PropOrNot in their article, it shows “the indicia of actual malice, i.e. knowing and/or reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of your allegations against Naked Capitalism.”

“The simplest internet search reveals propornot.com to be a recent creation, shadowy at best, and with no credentials or bona fides that are capable of independent verification and assessment for e.g. credibility,” the letter states.

Interestingly, a bill was introduced on November 22, two days before the Washington Post published the November 24 article in question, which allow Washington DC lawmakers to crack down on websites deemed to be “Russian propaganda” or “fake news.”

“It is easy to see how this law, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called ‘fake news’ websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media’s proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration,” Global Research reported.

The bill must now pass through Senate, though a senior Rand Paul aide told Sputnik News on Monday that the Senator is currently holding the intelligence bill for several reasons — and that they are looking at this specific issue very closely.

"As long as the government engages in intelligence activities that violate our rights secured by our Constitution, any Intel Authorization bill should be opposed,” Justin Amash told Sputnik News.

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