The anatomy of modern fake news: Latvian version.

“… it is established that the information in the published article – the subject matter of these proceedings – is unsubstantiated. Therefore, the court recognizes the lawsuit to be reasonable, and hereby rules to oblige the respondent to apologize in written form to the plaintiff, and publish, at his own expense, … the full text of the apology.”

That’s an extract from the recent Riga court decision on our lawsuit against the Latvian politician Krišjānis Feldmans, which lawsuit sought the protection of our business reputation. And I do hope it will make others think twice about blindly copy-pasting the lies of a handful of U.S. media based on politically-motivated anonymous official-agency sources in the interests of the current geopolitical agenda. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning of this tale…


Any technology – even a kitchen knife – can be used in various ways, including of course harmful ones. The internet and social networks have brought people closer (at least digitally), but have also given bad guys a tool for (among other things) distributing lies. At the same time, certain legal systems (in particular the U.S.’s) allow their country’s media to parrot anything that official but anonymous (go figure!) sources whisper in its ear. This is great for politicians – who leak to the press this or that dirt on this or that out-of-favor individual or organization. This is great for the press – as they get shocking exclusives which are real popular with readers. It’s not great for the remaining 7.5 billion folks on the planet who are constantly fed lies and thus form distorted views of reality – and all to suit the latest geopolitical agenda of a specific government. And last but not least, it’s not great for a company – like KL – that hasn’t done anything wrong but finds itself out of favor due to geopolitical reasons.

As a targeted company, alas, fighting such injustice with legal means (and those are the only means we use) through the courts in such flawed jurisdictions is impossible: any attempt is by default doomed to failure. In other words, it’s a complete waste of a lot of time and a lot of money, which are much better spent on ever-improving our technologies and products to help protect our customers.

However, once all the made-up nonsense about us leaves a flawed jurisdiction (which, today, is immediately:), going after the distributors of made-up nonsense becomes realistic – i.e., not such a doomed course of action as it is back in the flawed jurisdiction.

Example: last year, after we turned to a Dutch court, the largest newspaper of the Netherlands, De Telegraaf, was ordered by that court to publish a retraction regarding a libelous fake-news article about KL in which Dutch politicians played a role.

Another example: just the other day a Latvian court satisfied our lawsuit against Latvian politician Krišjānis Feldmans for distributing lies inauthentic and defamatory information about us. The story goes like this:

In the fall of 2017 Feldmans published on several sites an article in which he wrote many untrue things about us, including that we, apparently, develop viruses ourselves and are also an enemy agent working for the Russian security services. (Sorry Mr Feldsman, but made-up stuff like that can be very damaging to our reputation – which is founded upon trust. If things like that were true we’d pack up shop tomorrow for we wouldn’t be an independent security company.) So, naturally, faced with such damaging untruths, we had to stick up for ourselves…

We filed a lawsuit with a Latvian court; as a response to which the politician hurried to try and hide behind ‘free speech’. However, the Latvian judge was perfectly capable of distinguishing ‘information purported to be fact’ from mere opinion, and rightly ruled to obligate the defendant to publish a retraction, to publicly apologize, and to pay compensation for reputational damage and to cover court costs.

The text of the court ruling in the case is lengthy – and in Latvian. There is an official translation into Russian, which I’ve read, but I won’t bore you with a full translation of it. However, I do want to share with you a few translated paragraphs:

“In separating information and opinions, most important is not the grammatical interpretation of the respective pronouncements, or whether those pronouncements are mere assertions or presuppositions, but the overall context of the publications or pronouncements.”

“Purported facts can be checked for authenticity so that their status as facts can be proved. Should somebody assert a ‘fact’ that insults the honor and dignity of an individual, then whoever may decide to distribute that asserted fact must prove that it does indeed correspond with reality.”

“Having considered the entirety of the text of the publication – the subject matter of these proceedings – and in particular the citation indicated in the lawsuit that the plaintiff is seeking a refutation of, the court rules that it does contain information that could have been checked.”

“The representative [Feldmans] expressed the opinion in the court session that he is not a journalist, and that, accordingly, to him are not applied the legal norms regulating the activity of journalists and concerning the liability for expressing false information. He also referred to the prohibition of censorship, to freedom of speech, and to the rights and obligations of the specialized press to publish criticism of enterprises so as to draw attention to any shortcomings thereof that could potentially harm the interests of society as a whole. The court, though not denying the respondent the right to express criticism, recognizes that criticism or points of view must be substantiated and based on authentic and reliable sources of information. Thus, in expressing such criticism, it is the view of the court that the respondent should have checked if his sources were in fact reliable.”

…in the publication on the portal to which the respondent refers, there is a statement of the deputy manager of CERT.LV, Varis Teivāns, stating that CERT.LV does not have any technical proof of Kaspersky Lab products having been created in such a way as to create some kind of threat. Given that CERT.LV is a structural subdivision of the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Latvia, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense of the Latvian Republic, … in the opinion of the court, such a statement should have been taken into account.”

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