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Delaware court hears appeal in Carter Page defamation suit

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The Delaware Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a defamation lawsuit filed by former Donald Trump campaign operative Carter Page against the media company that includes Yahoo! and AOL and formerly owned HuffPost.

Attorneys for Page, who attended the hearing, argued that a Superior Court judge erred in dismissing the lawsuit in February after finding that Page had failed to demonstrate that articles about the FBI investigation into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign defamed him.

Page claimed that he was harmed by the publication of false and defamatory statements suggesting that he was secretly plotting with Russian officials. He was the target of a secret surveillance campaign by the FBI but was never charged with any wrongdoing.

Page sought to hold Oath liable for 11 articles, particularly one written by Michael Isikoff and published by Yahoo! in September 2016. That article was followed by three others from HuffPost employees and seven from third-party contributors to HuffPost.

Page took specific exception with Isikoff’s description of a dossier of information compiled during the 2016 presidential campaign by Christopher Steele, a former British spy whose research into ties between Trump and Russia was financed by Democrats. The FBI used the dossier to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on Page, even though it was alerted that it might contain Russian disinformation, and that a key source for Steele was himself the target of an FBI investigation for possible connections to Russian intelligence.

Isikoff described the dossier as an “intelligence report” and referred to Steele as “a well placed intelligence source,” according to court records.

“The truth is that the reporter, Mr. Isikoff, knew that the Steele dossier and its fabrications were false,” Page attorney Todd McMurtry argued Wednesday, adding that Page became the focus of “a completely fabricated investigation and a fabricated story planted for political purposes.”

In their appeal, Page’s attorneys challenged Judge Craig Karsnitz’s determination that Page had to properly allege not only that Oath, the defendant in the lawsuit, had acted with actual malice, but that the author of each article also acted with actual malice.

They also said Karsnitz erred in ruling that, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Oath could not be held liable for the seven articles posted by contributors. That provision protects social media platforms from being sued by someone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted, regardless of whether the complaint is legitimate.

Page’s attorneys contend that Oath was not merely a neutral “interactive computer service” subject to Section 230′s protections, but was instead an “information content provider.”
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