In a federal complaint against Fox News, former Outnumbered host Andrea Tantaros claims that after she filed a sexual harassment claim against the former CEO Roger Ailes, Fox News contracted with a psyops team to set up a "black room" to run a hate campaign that targeted her by cyberstalking her, implanting malware on her computer, and libeling her on "fake news" sites.
Trying to silence Ms. Tantaros by unsuccessfully seeking to overwhelm her with a multitude of lawyers was unsavory, but legal. But the Defendants went to the next level with Ms. Tantaros: committing crimes…the Defendants in this case subjected Ms. Tantaros to illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking, and used that information (including, on information and belief, privileged attorney-client communications) to intimidate, terrorize, and crush her career through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries and commentary, and high-profile "fake" media sites which Fox News (or its social influence contractors) owned or controlled. These accounts and sites were made to appear as held by independent persons or neutral media entities ("sockpuppet accounts"). While the use of professional social influencers and fake stories, accounts and posts has been part of Fox News's [sic] stock and and trade for years. the use of illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking has taken the company's conduct to a profoundly disturbing next level.
Tantaros' suit identifies Peter Snyder and Disruptor Inc. as the operators of a social influence operation using "sock puppet" accounts on Twitter and other social media. According to a report by Salon's Matthew Sheffield, Snyder had originally done social media "black room" work for Fox News and Ailes through his company New Media Strategies, and he continued to do so under the aegis of Disruptor. This work, also done by a number of other contractors (such as Bert Solivan, a former FOXnews.com general manager who reported directly to Ailes), included operating a number of blogs under concealed identities to spread disinformation about competitors and allegedly obtaining phone numbers and credit reports of reporters Ailes disliked in order to spy on them. These surveillance campaigns were funded by Ailes from Fox News' budget.
Tantaros' complaint states that the same day she was fired, a number of e-mails were remotely wiped from her BlackBerry. A forensic analysis of Tantaros' computer conducted later "revealed that it contained unique surveillance viruses that are not found in any mass malware." Tantaros believed, "a person working for Fox News was responsible for hacking Ms. Tantaros' computer so she could be spied on," according to the lawsuit. Ars contacted Tantaros' attorney requesting more information on that analysis, but we received only a copy of the complaint with its full set of exhibits, some redacted. None of those exhibits include the forensic data referenced.
Lawsuit: Fox News group hacked, surveilled, and stalked ex-host Andrea Tantaros
[Sean Gallagher/Ars Technica]