What Cardi B’s defamation win means for YouTube’s gossip industry

Cardi B attending a Grammy party in 2018.
Cardi B attending a Grammy party in 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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The defamation lawsuit filed by Cardi B against YouTube video blogger Latasha Kebe in 2019 has finally come to a close with the rapper awarded roughly $4 million in federal court. The jury delivered the verdict yesterday and the total monetary damages were revealed today.

Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar,  announced plans to file the lawsuit in 2018 via Instagram after Kebe, who makes videos under the name of Tasha K, claimed the music artist had used cocaine, worked as a prostitute, and had a sexually transmitted disease. The artist held a brief press conference today thanking the jurors and her lawyers for the result. 

“We all saw the videos, and I just want to say thank you guys for keeping me strong because this was very hard for me,” Cardi B said. “It put me into a lot of emotional distress.”

Kebe’s YouTube channel currently has 1 million subscribers and nearly 200 million views, adding credibility to the rapper’s assertions that the vlogger’s largely disproven claims may have impacted her career. 

What happens when your reputation is attacked on YouTube isn’t cut and dry 

A spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, declined to comment. However, in the past, YouTube has taken notice when creators on the company’s platform violate its terms of service. One portion of those terms states, “If any of your content…may cause harm to YouTube, our users, or third parties, we reserve the right to remove or take down some or all of such Content in our discretion.” Google was not named as a defendant in the case.

Like many social media platforms, the company’s approach to removing videos and channels that violate its terms hasn’t always been consistent, but in high-profile situations in the past, YouTube has acted swiftly. In 2021, following the conviction of singer R. Kelly on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges, YouTube rapidly deleted two of the artist’s official channels. 

However, in the case of defamation, the path to getting a channel deleted isn’t as clear. 

“Because we are not in a position to adjudicate the truthfulness of postings, we do not remove video postings due to allegations of defamation,” reads Google’s YouTube guidelines. “If you choose to pursue legal action against the content creator, note that we may be prepared to comply with any order requiring the content creator to remove the posting in question.”

So far, Kebe’s YouTube channel remains active, but that may change in the coming days depending on the details included in the yet-to-be-disclosed court documents. 

YouTubers are now officially on notice  

The monetary award could have a chilling effect on the thriving YouTube creator space in general, where rumors involving celebrities are frequently spread, racking up millions of views. 

This case is the kind of incident Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was designed for since it’s protecting an online platform (YouTube) from being liable for the content produced by its users (Kebe). However, as lawmakers continue to attempt to get the law changed, such protections may not remain in place.

Now that a major legal victory has been lodged against one of YouTube’s most popular entertainment vloggers, a new precedent may curtail rumor-mongering on YouTube’s more popular channels, and could lead to the platform prioritizing such cases.