The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Ghanaian Legislator Sues Prominent Video Commentator for Libel


The case is Agyapong v. Taylor (E.D. Va.), filed Friday:

Plaintiff is [a 5-time-]elected MP of Ghana's Parliament …. As an MP, Plaintiff is the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee of Security, Defense, and Intelligence. Plaintiff is also, by appointment by the President of Ghana, the Board Chair of Ghana Gas Company Limited….

[Defendant Taylor] is the founder of [Defendant Loud Silence Media]. Mr. Taylor also operates and hosts a program on LSM via its YouTube Channel, 'Loud Silence TV,' and Facebook Platform, 'With all due respect—Loud Silence Media.' The latter show is streamed on many other platforms as well….

LSM identifies itself on its Facebook and YouTube platforms as a media outlet that brings "the latest in relevant culture, human interest, and entertainment stories live from the front lines in Ghana …" LSM is popular on YouTube and Facebook and has over forty-seven thousand (47,000) subscribers on YouTube and almost three hundred and forty thousand (340,000) followers on Facebook. Its shows are also streamed by other media and individual accounts on Facebook and YouTube….

Since July 2021, Defendants have falsely stated via the LS platforms that Plaintiff is a criminal and have falsely attributed numerous crimes to Plaintiff including "murder,"  "drug dealer and drug addict," "immigration fraudster," and "theft."

I can't speak to the merits of the libel claim, but it's an interesting counterpoint to the other recent lawsuit over libels related to West Africa. And I do think this claim isn't going anywhere:

Count III (Virginia Computer Crime's Act) (In Violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7:1) …

Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7:1 (Harassment by computer) makes it a crime for any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass any person, to use a computer or computer network to communicate obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, or make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature, or threaten any illegal or immoral act….

Defendants have repeatedly used a computer to post online the false publications described above in an effort to continuously harass Plaintiff….

I don't see how the allegations would be covered by the statute (which in any event doesn't appear to create a civil cause of action). And if such speech about a person (rather than just unwanted speech to a person) were covered, then I think the statute would be unconstitutionally overbroad.