Tracey Spicer Has Threatened To Sue Media Outlets Over Criticisms Of Her #MeToo Work

    Spicer has sent legal letters to Sky News, News Corp and BuzzFeed News.

    Prominent journalist and feminist Tracey Spicer issued defamation threats to multiple news organisations after they published critical coverage of her role in Australia’s #MeToo movement, which she has repeatedly claimed was slowed by defamation laws.

    Sky News, News Corp broadsheet The Australian and BuzzFeed News have each received legal letters or cautions from Spicer in recent months.

    Spicer has been a strident critic of Australia’s plaintiff-friendly defamation laws, stating that they “act to protect the wealthy and the powerful, there’s no doubt about that” and describing them as some of the toughest in the world. She has also repeatedly cited defamation as the reason it is so difficult to publish #MeToo stories in Australia.

    Sky News received a letter in relation to an Aug. 5, 2019 segment on Chris Kenny’s media show looking at Spicer’s role in the #MeToo movement.

    In the episode, Kenny said Spicer’s early promises that dozens of men would be exposed had not eventuated, and criticised #MeToo at length as a movement that involved trial by media and neglected the rule of law and natural justice.

    He also looked at criticism over Spicer’s assertion she was “working with police” in relation to the disclosures of sexual misconduct she had received. Kenny said it was “strange” for a journalist to work with police, and described Spicer’s explanation — that she had offered to accompany survivors to the police station — as “a far cry from working with police”.

    A legal letter to Sky News sent after the broadcast demanded an apology, that the broadcast be removed, and significant compensation. Spicer had declined an interview for the segment.

    BuzzFeed News — this publisher — received a concerns notice from Spicer on Nov. 9, sent by Kennedys law firm partner Rebekah Giles, who represented Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young in her recent successful defamation action against David Leyonhjelm.

    The letter threatened to initiate defamation proceedings in the Federal Court if an investigation published on Oct. 18 was not promptly removed and then amended.

    The letter said Spicer did not want to sue fellow journalists but given the seriousness of the alleged imputations contained in the investigation felt she had no other choice.

    The BuzzFeed News investigation looked at NOW Australia — the #MeToo non-profit co-founded by Spicer — and why it failed to deliver on its promise of providing a triage service for survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

    The legal letter accused BuzzFeed News of portraying Spicer negatively and being one-sided in its reporting of a complicated issue.

    Spicer was approached for an interview nine days before publication but did not respond. BuzzFeed News subsequently sent her detailed questions three days before publication and received a statement from Spicer in response.

    In response to the letter, BuzzFeed News declined to remove the article but reiterated its offer to sit down for an interview with Spicer. Giles acknowledged receipt but did not respond further.

    On Nov. 13, BuzzFeed News and revealed that a preview copy of the Spicer-fronted documentary Silent No More had been distributed with unredacted shots of private disclosures of assault and harassment, without the consent of the women who had sent them to Spicer.

    The story was picked up by The Australian newspaper, which ran a follow-up story five days later quoting survivor Dhanya Mani. Spicer’s lawyer wrote a warning letter to the newspaper ahead of publication.

    Spicer has also been criticised for making separate legal threats to three women, as reported by In the wake of the story, Spicer tweeted that the article was inaccurate.

    “Any legal notices issued aimed to correct misinformation placed in the public domain which was distressing to survivors who bravely told their stories in Silent No More,” she said. “These private notices were sent in a genuine attempt to resolve the issue outside of the litigation process. 🙏🏻”

    Neither the initial BuzzFeed News investigation nor the Sky News broadcast focused on Silent No More.

    Other pieces of critical coverage have been removed from the internet.

    On Nov. 5, before the documentary scandal broke, Pro Bono Australia published a follow-up to the initial BuzzFeed News investigation exploring the difficulties of celebrity-founded charities, and suggesting that it may be more effective for celebrities to add their brand to pre-existing organisations.

    That article, titled “The problem with well-meaning celebrities and their charities”, is no longer online and Pro Bono declined to comment on whether it had received a letter from Spicer.

    As well, in a list published on Friday, the Crikey website included Spicer as a nominee for its annual “Arsehat of the Year” awards. By Monday, her name had been removed from the list.

    A Crikey spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “Crikey did not receive any legal communication from Tracey Spicer regarding her nomination in our annual Arsehat of the Year award.”

    The spokesperson did not reply to questions about why Spicer’s name was removed, or whether Crikey had heard from Spicer at all over the list.

    Spicer did not respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.