Cornell University professor Emin Gün Sirer — who also created crypto platform Avalanche — can continue legal action against a social media influencer who claimed he belonged to a Turkish terrorist organization, a Florida federal court has ruled.
As reported by Law360, Sirer originally sued Emre Aksoy back in June. Aksoy published a YouTube video to his channel Kripto Emre alleging that Sirer was a member of the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FATO).
Sirer, who founded Avalanche’s Ava Labs in 2018, said that Aksoy knew the statements were untrue and that they could harm his reputation, and endanger his family
Sirer also hinted at an ulterior motive. He alleged that Aksoy, who took money to promote cryptocurrencies, told his followers to short Avalanche’s native token AVAX.
One of Aksoy’s clients was, according to Sirer, a direct competitor to AVAX.
In her Monday ruling, US District Judge Beth Bloom said:
“Taken as true, this allegation is sufficient to plausibly state that Aksoy acted with actual malice.”
This means that Sirer is now free to pursue defamation claims and seek punitive damages. He also wants the offending claims removed from all of Aksoy’s social media channels.
Florida avenged Avalanche on YouTuber’s vacation
Aksoy is a Turkish resident, however, he is subject to rulings by the Florida court. He was reportedly served with the lawsuit at Miami airport during a vacation.
He claimed that he was a “media defendant” which would entitle him to notice of the suit in writing.
However, Judge Bloom said that Aksoy’s claims that he uses the internet to share information and receive real-time feedback are not enough to define him as such.
Sirer’s legal representatives welcomed the court’s decision and said it should set a precedent.
“Some people think of crypto as the Wild West, but this case should serve as a warning to online influencers who are paid promoters,” they said in a statement to Law360 (our emphasis).
“You can still be held accountable for the words you use on social media.”
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Edit 09:16 UTC, Feb 15: Since this article went live, Emre Aksoy has reached out to provide Protos with the following statement, published in full and unedited:
“This is a typical SLAPP suit to prevent me from exposing their flaws and wrong doings to the Turkish crypto community, as Turkey is the main market of AVAX. I have no intention to dodge such attempts as I have always valued free speech on my channels. The opposing counsel is clearly unaware of the 1st Amendment so I have nothing to fear in this situation. They have also filed the same lawsuit in Turkey and lost the case, I’m confident that the same will happen in Florida.”
The headline of this article has also been edited to be more specific.