Qatar sues online critics of its government: U.S. lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Qatar's government communications office has filed a U.S. lawsuit against people who it said are conducting an illegal social media and internet campaign to spread false information and hurt the country's businesses.

In a complaint filed on Friday night with a New York state court in Manhattan, the office said the defendants have since October operated accounts under the QatarExposed name, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a website, ((http://qatar-exposed.org)), to post false statements about Qatar's government, "including promoting the sanctioning of Qatar."

The website describes itself as "a dossier on the world's leading state sponsor of extremism" and refers several times to what it considers Qatar's support for terrorists and terrorist groups.

Operators of the accounts mentioned in the lawsuit could not immediately be reached on Saturday for comment.

The government communications office said the defendants, who it identified as John Does 1-10, have used their anonymity to spread negative information, causing irreparable harm and injury to its operations and reputation.

It also said about 5 percent of Twitter followers of @QatarExposed are automated "bots," which means most of the false statements are spread to real accounts and people.

"Defendants' social media posts and attacks do not constitute opinion or protected political speech in its substance, content and purpose," the complaint said.

The government communications office is seeking unspecified damages in its complaint. A U.S.-based lawyer for the office did not immediately respond on Saturday to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

03/17/2018 14:04

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