U.S. Publisher Not Subject To GDPR, UK Court Rules

Forensic News, a U.S. web publication focused largely on investigative pieces on former President Trump, is not subject to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK’s High Court of Justice has determined.

However, Justice Robert Jay also held the U.S. defendants must defend themselves against defamation claims.

Jay’s ruling concerns a suit filed by Walter Tzvi Soriano, a businessman with joint British-Israeli citizenship, asserting that a series of articles and podcasts on him by Forensic News constituted “malicious falsehood, libel, harassment and misuse of private information,” while violating his data protection rights under GDPR. 

The defendants include the publication, founder/CEO Scott Stedman and four other individuals acting in journalistic capacities. 



Jay rejected the data protection claim, saying Soriano has “no arguable case under the GDPR.”

The judge said: “I cannot accept the proposition that less than a handful of UK subscriptions to a platform which solicits payment for services on an entirely generic basis, and which in any event can be cancelled at any time,” violates the spirit or provisions of GDPR.

Based on developments that preceded Brexit, this opinion on the territorial reach of GDPR is “of wide relevance to businesses, and not just to the publisher involved in this case,” state Laura Gillespie and Stuart Davey of the Pinsent Masons law firm, in a blog post.

In another finding, Jay rejected the claim that the defendants’ journalistic activities and tweets driving people to the articles about Soriano constituted “harassment” or bullying.

“Overall, I do not think the tweets do much more than draw attention to the publications … albeit in a self-congratulatory manner, for the purpose of drawing in potential readers.

Jay also denied the claim that the allegedly libelous articles were driven by malice, “a synthetic edifice which has no basis in substance,” in this instance.

But Forensic News must defend itself against defamation claims and for alleged misuse of private information, which is a matter limited to four paragraphs. 

Without ruling on the accuracy of the articles, the judge noted that, given “the extent of publication in England and Wales, the Claimant has a convincing argument that he has suffered serious harm to his reputation.” In addition, “As a British citizen, Soriano is “not a libel tourist.”

The Judge noted that Soriano was “invited by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to testify in connection with its investigation into the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.”

Scott Stedman had no comment on the ruling. 

Publishers Daily was unable to reach Soliano at press time.

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