The New York Times and journalist Taylor Lorenz on Thursday failed to get a Manhattan federal judge to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought by a former TikTok talent agent who alleged a “hit piece” the reporter wrote for the paper destroyed her business.
US District Judge Edgardo Ramos dismissed all but one of the claims brought by Ariadna Jacob in $11.6 million lawsuit filed last year, but his ruling likely means that the Times and Lorenz will have to testify over an August 2020 article — which accused Jacob of leaking nude photos of a TikTok influencer to industry insiders.
Jacob, the talent manager who discovered TikTok stars including Addison Rae and Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, claimed that Lorenz “bullied” her clients into fabricating claims against her.
“We are pleased with the courts allowing this case to move forward, agreeing that we sufficiently alleged defamation against the defendants,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, the attorney representing Jacob.
“This ruling reaffirms our belief in the strength of our case, and the importance of holding media outlets accountable for publishing materially false hit pieces.”
Lorenz, the controversial tech reporter, has since moved on to The Washington Post.
The Post has sought comment from Lorenz.
A Times spokesperson told The Post: “We are pleased that the court recognized that almost all of Ms. Jacob’s claims had no legal merit.”
“For the one remaining claim, we are prepared to go forward with the litigation and will continue to put up a vigorous defense,” the Times spokesperson said.
Jacob, 38, is the founder and CEO of Influences, a now-defunct company which billed itself as an “online creator management and influencer marketing company” that at one point managed more than 85 TikTok creators with massive followings.
She has accused Lorenz and the Times of publishing a “hit piece” about her company, which procured branding deals with aspiring influencers who were in turn required to pay rent to live in a Hollywood Hills mansion and create a minimum number of social media posts to promote the home and themselves.
Jacob’s stable of TikTok stars included content creators who got paid tens of thousands of dollars every time they posted a video promoting brands such as Mastercard and Universal Music Group.
Influences hosted the TikTok stars at a “collaboration house” in Los Angeles, where they lived while creating viral videos.
In her Times story, Lorenz quoted the influencers as accusing Jacob of locking them into exclusive contracts and promising them branding deals — only to fail to deliver and saddling them with onerous expenses including rent and utilities.
Jacob had denied the allegations to Lorenz and the Times.