Cardi B's Case Against Vlogger Tasha K: Defamation With Rewind Button

Tasha K
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The vlogger Tasha K. Image: YouTube screenshot.

 In 2019, Belcalis Almanzar, aka Cardi B, filed a federal lawsuit against Latasha Kebe, aka vlogger Tasha K, for several videos she posted about Cardi B. It’s a federal case that has implications that will reach far beyond this case.  The lawsuit gets to the heart of who should be held responsible for defamatory verbal and written comments not just about celebrities, but about anyone who believes that someone is taking liberties with the truth online. Free speech has boundaries and if you cross them, that speech will cost you. If you post on social media, the lessons you learn from this case will save you a lot of money. In short, when you watch Tasha K at work, you will see what defamation with a rewind button looks like.  

Tasha K posts videos under the name unwinewithtashak. She produces videos, podcasts, and interviews that she believes will draw viewers. Her YouTube channel alone boasts one million followers and on it, the vlogger claimed that the award-winning rapper and songwriter used to be a prostitute, had herpes, used drugs during her pregnancy with her daughter and performed sexual acts using a beer bottle when she worked as an exotic dancer. Tasha K received several cease and desist letters from Cardi B’s attorneys but she refused to cease or desist with making her claims. In one of her videos, Kebe says she had a lawyer friend look at the letter before using it to "wipe my ass."

Cardi B sued Tasha K for slander per se, slander, libel per se and defamation. She called the publication slanderous, defamatory, false, harmful, and offensive. She also sued the online personality for invasion of privacy, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While each of these causes of action necessitates further explanation, what people who make their living talking online need to understand the most are the claims of slander per se (spoken defamation) and libel per se (written defamation). This pair of actions is different from plain slander and libel. They represent the principle that some statements on their face are so damaging to a person’s reputation, that the plaintiff doesn't even have to prove damages when bringing a claim. Damages are assumed.

Historically, the courts have highlighted examples of this particular type of defamatory information. If you claim that a person has a loathsome disease, has been convicted of a crime, was sexually improper, or said something that injured another’s profession or business - and it’s not true - you have committed slander or libel per se in the eyes of the law. In other words, if you call a person a prostitute and it’s not true, you will lose your case as it is assumed that these types of statements will automatically harm a person's reputation.

The first celebrity who felt the sting of the social media defamation lawsuit didn't write or say anything close to what Tasha K said in her video performances, but they were in the same online ballpark. In 2009 fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir sued rock star and actress Courtney Love over a $4000 clothing payment. She accused Love of eviscerating her business with a series of defamatory tweets where Love called her a “drug-pushing, thieving prostitute with a history of assault and battery.” Love settled not one, but two defamation lawsuits related to the same Tweet. The first case was settled for $430,000. Love then repeated the same defamatory information and settled the second case for $350,000. At least she had the foresight to settle.

If you haven't done so already, it’s worth taking the time to watch the unwinewithtashak YouTube channel. With ease, the vlogger uses hyper-critical words and analysis as a sword to cut out her own truth. She connects a series of thoughts to create a false intimacy between herself and her viewers in a fluid presentation. Like so many other cases that we see unfold in the headlines, the videos tell the story. She prides herself in saying "I knew that shit was fake", "I want to break this bitch" and "I've been given full permission from my legal team to go the fuck in. All the judge got to do is Google goddamn [Cardi B] image.” At the end of this trial, vloggers around the world will think twice about what they say or risk losing their channel. For now, it's better for Cardi's B's case that Latasha K's channel remain in place for the trial, but trust and believe that Cardi B's attorneys will request that YouTube remove Tasha K's channel. YouTube has taken down channels for less.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure why Tasha K hasn't been charged with cyberbullying because an argument could be made that she used electronic communications to harass Cardi B as Tasha K used the hashtag #cardib. Attorneys also had a viable claim against Tasha K for extorting money because instead of ceasing and desisting with posting videos about Cardi B when asked to do so, she invited Cardi B be interviewed on her unwinewithtashak platform. When the Grammy-award winning artist refused, Tasha K continued to make money off of her by telling partly and wholly manufactured stories giving the vlogger her highest watched videos to this day. 

When hawks go after their prey, they swoop in, suffocate and dismember them with their talons. When Cardi B testified, she explained that she was preyed upon by Tasha K detailing how she wanted to commit suicide because of what the outspoken self-proclaimed news reporter said. Indeed, Tasha K has been going in for the kill to make money off of Cardi B (and others) for years asking others to drink and “unwine” with her along the way—each of the videos making the case that alcohol is not always a truth serum.

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