SAN FRANCISCO–The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University today filed a brief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California opposing NSO Group’s motion to dismiss the case brought by 18 journalists and other members of El Faro late last year. The case alleges that NSO Group’s spyware was used to infiltrate the plaintiffs’ iPhones and track their communications and movements. In recent years, NSO Group’s spyware has been used by authoritarian and rights-abusing regimes to target journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents around the world. The Knight Institute case is the first filed by journalists against NSO Group in U.S. court.

The following can be attributed to Carrie DeCell, senior staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute.

“Spyware manufacturers that participate in the persecution of journalists shouldn’t be able to operate with impunity. U.S. courts must ensure that spyware manufacturers are held accountable for their actions where those actions violate U.S. law, as they did here. The court should deny NSO Group’s motion to dismiss this case.”

El Faro is an internationally renowned digital newspaper based in Central America. It is dedicated to in-depth, investigative journalism about human rights, inequality, violence, and government corruption. NSO Group is an Israel-based technology company that develops spyware and sells it to governments around the world—including governments that have been implicated in serious human rights abuses. NSO Group’s signature product, called Pegasus, can infect smartphones surreptitiously to give the spyware’s operators effectively unlimited access to, and control over, the devices. According to the lawsuit, El Faro members suffered 226 Pegasus attacks over the course of 18 months, and these attacks were part of a broader campaign against the press and civil society in El Salvador, in which at least nine organizations and 35 individuals were targeted.

The lawsuit alleges that NSO Group’s actions in developing spyware and assisting in its deployment against El Faro journalists violated, among other laws, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. In addition to asking the court to rule that the Pegasus attacks against the plaintiffs violated U.S. law, the lawsuit asks the court to require NSO Group to identify, return, and then delete all information it obtained through these attacks; to prohibit NSO Group from deploying Pegasus again against the plaintiffs; and to require NSO Group to identify the client that ordered the surveillance.

Read today’s brief here

Read more about the lawsuit, Dada v. NSO Group here.

In addition to DeCell, lawyers on the case include Jameel Jaffer, Alex Abdo, Stephanie Krent, Evan Welber Falćon, and Mayze Teitler of the Knight First Amendment Institute, and Paul Hoffman and John Washington of Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris, Hoffman & Zeldes LLP.

For more information, contact: Adriana Lamirande, [email protected]