A microphone and a YouTube channel are all you need to start your very own celebrity gossip page, right? Right. And you can just speak your mind, right? After all, it’s just a YouTube channel. Wrong.
Rapper Cardi B was awarded around $4 million on Jan. 24 in her 2019 libel lawsuit against blogger Latasha Kebe, who goes by Tasha K online. Kebe runs a YouTube channel called “unWinewithTashaK” with just under 1 million subscribers and a podcast called “Wino Gang Podcast.” She is known for her unfiltered commentary on popular culture and trends. In 2018, Cardi B was the subject of around 40 videos in which Kebe spread many harsh and false claims about her, including that she was formerly a prostitute, abused drugs, cheated on her husband and contracted herpes. The court found Kebe responsible on two counts of slander and one count of both invasion of privacy and libel.
“I knew that s*it was fake,” Kebe said in a video played to the court. She admitted that she made up details surrounding Cardi B’s life to increase traffic to her platform, despite continuously telling her audience that she only spoke the truth.
Rumors can have serious effects on those at the receiving end. During the trial, Cardi B told the jury she felt suicidal in the aftermath of the videos. She experienced negative symptoms including weight loss and anxiety, and she lived in fear of the rumors’ impact on her relationship with her fans and business endeavors.
In reference to winning her case, Cardi B tweeted: “Why am I happy but sad at the same time?”
Kebe is one of many YouTubers that has created a brand from discussing the music and entertainment industry. These creators gain viewership through their personality-filled opinions and version of events. While the gossip is profitable and can be fun to watch, misinformation is more likely to spread because streaming platforms are more informal than a well-vetted news source.
Kebe is not alone – many large and small creators recklessly spread untrue information about celebrities for shock value and attention. Her disturbing actions and unapologetic attitude are the direct result of social media’s inconsistent upholding of community guidelines and rules. She prioritized monetary gain over ethics because had the space to do so. Hate speech, especially against well-known figures, often flies under the radar.
Cardi B’s win sends a message to content creators that there are consequences for purposely spreading false information. Beyond financial compensation, the ruling is an official acknowledgment that Kebe’s actions were wrong. This case sets legal precedence for handling defamation amongst bloggers and will make bloggers think twice before publishing unreviewed or malicious information publicly.