What Do 4,500 Defamatory Instagram Messages Get You? A $500K Lawsuit by F-Factor Diet Creator

As social media law continues to evolve, content creators are starting to be held accountable for their online "clout."

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Source: YouTube

Four thousand five hundred messages later, Instagram content creator, Emily Gellis got the response she probably never thought would slide into her DMs…a $500,000 defamation lawsuit by F-Factor diet creator Tanya Zuckerbrot.

The Parties

The Plaintiff, Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, is an internationally-known dietitian, a two-time bestselling author, and the creator and CEO of the renowned F-Factor Diet—a liberating and sustainable approach to weight loss and optimal health based on scientifically proven fiber-rich nutrition.

The Defendant, Emily Gellis, 34, an Instagram content creator,, known for “The Snap Stylist” fashion, beauty, and travel-based Instagram account. She has over 207,000 followers. She goes by the Instagram handle @emilygellis.

What is F-Factor?

The F-Factor diet is a weight loss plan that advocates for eating carbs, dining out, drinking alcohol, and working out less.

F-Factor also has a line of Fiber/Protein powders and bars, which are what Gellis claimed contain arsenic.

The Facts (Allegedly)

Pursuant to the Complaint, filed in New York State Court, the timeline of Gellis’ alleged behavior and online bullying began on July 22, 2020 and continues over a 75-day period.

Gellis, 34, is who pursuant to the legal complaint, has allegedly shared and anonymously re-shared messages on her Instagram profile, claiming that the F-Factor diet program causes intestinal damage, heart attacks, and death. Basically, Gellis was running her mouth saying that the protein bars contained arsenic. Zuckerbrot claims any and all rumors related to that are false.

Zuckerbrot’s lawyers say that her husband Anthony Westreich contacted Facebook, the owners of Instagram, claiming that Gellis had violated the company’s community standards. But “despite extensive efforts by Zuckerbrot and F-Factor, no action was taken to remedy or cease the continued abuse,” the lawsuit states.

But are you really surprised? Instagram via Facebook almost never addresses these very real harms that it visibly encourages simply due to its inaction to get involved in “free speech.”

Among many other instances, the complaint specifically references an instance where Gellis allegedly shared a story from one woman claiming that the high-fiber diet caused her miscarriage. It’s worth mentioning that the woman later recounted her story and shared that it was a lie. But once words are out there, there’s no turning back. The damage is done. Lie or not.

New York Defamation Law

Under New York Law the law, defamation lawsuits are pretty difficult to win, primarily due to the insufficient proof of showing both “falsehood” and damages. To bring a defamation claim under New York law, the complainant must show that a (1) false statement was (2) published to a 3rd party (3) without privilege or authorization (4) with fault amounting to at least negligence, and (5) that caused special harm or defamation per se

Specifically, the false and defamatory statement about another person must be published/shared with a third party that does not include the person subject of those statements. The “damage” is that the person has been defamed and as a result, treated differently by society.

This usually occurs through slander, or spoken statements, and libel, which are written statements.

What’s the Point?

Accountability. Plain and simple.

Today, it is readily apparent that these social media platform companies cause enormous and serious financial and emotional harm to third-party individuals and businesses, and despite the Terms of Service, don’t have the time to actually work with users.

If anything, they are no different than the aggressors themselves, to an extent, for blatantly turning a blind eye to the behavior and relying solely on an infant algorithm that has no legitimacy for truly addressing online bullying and defamation.

Unless you’re Donald Trump.

For more information on the lawsuit, you can email Andrew at andrew@rossowlaw.com. 

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. This article is extremely biased towards Tanya. As someone who has been following this story from the beginning and not just since the lawsuit was filed, the messages Emily shared were not purposeful defamation but rather people who had come forward with their negative experiences with Ffactor. While Emily made claims through her Instagram stories most were in response to the information given to her through victims of Ffactor products and culture. Many people have stepped out of anonymity to verify claims. It’s unfortunate that Tanya has yet to acknowledge the damage done by her products/company culture and instead has blamed Emily for the downfall of her company. In reality, the much more apparent reason for the downfall is her complete lack of empathy towards former supporters who had negative experiences with her products.

    • There are multiple perspectives here, one of which is also the lack of accountability when it comes to online trolling, harassment, bullying, and stalking. A change to defamation laws is needed as well.

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