An international businessman accused of being a “serial sexual predator” akin to one of the world’s most hated villains is going after a couple of big-name targets in an effort to halt what he claims is a “carefully-coordinated and anonymous campaign to defame” him.
Modeling agency mogul Riccardo Silva, co-owner of famed soccer club AC Milan, president of Miami FC, and a megadonor to Florida International University—which named a football stadium after him—has asked a federal judge to force Reddit and Twitter to unmask the user (or users) allegedly smearing the tycoon online.
Silva, according to his filings in court, has been accused on social media of “serial sexual abuse” and “sexual harassment” that his lawyers say “falsely liken him to the conduct of [Jeffrey] Epstein—one of the notorious sex offenders in American history.” The allegations have even been levied on mobile billboards circulating throughout Miami, Silva says.
“The statements—on their face—falsely accuse Mr. Silva of egregious criminal acts that are capable of being proven that they did not occur as a matter of fact. Likewise, the context of the statements suggests that Mr. Silva committed egregious criminal acts of sexual misconduct,” Silva’s lawyers argue in a pair of court motions obtained by The Daily Beast.
Without Reddit and Twitter’s cooperation, Silva’s “due process rights will continue to be prejudiced,” state the motions to compel, filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.
“Mr. Silva and his family are the victims of a vicious, anonymous defamation campaign. Each of the anonymous statements attacking Mr. Silva is false and defamatory and he vehemently denies them. He has, accordingly, brought his defamation lawsuit against the wrongdoers and is taking all available measures to reveal the identities of the anonymous culprits, who have gone to extreme lengths to cover their tracks and avoid answering for their misdeeds. Mr. Silva is eager to have his day in court so that the truth can prevail and the anonymous culprits face the consequences for their damaging campaign and their reprehensible, dishonest actions,” a spokesman for Silva said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
The public allegations against Silva began to emerge last year in South Beach, during the tony Art Basel fair—“one of the busiest weekends of the year,” according to Silva’s filings.
That’s when an anonymous individual purchased a mobile billboard to drive around the tycoon’s South Miami Beach condo on December 3, 2022, according to a related lawsuit Silva brought against the billboard company. The billboard-on-wheels directed people to visit two online sites, the names of which are redacted in court filings. The lawsuit says whoever was responsible for those sites was also the creator of the website sossilva.org, which contains just three paragraphs of black text against a stark white background.
“He declared himself ‘untouchable’ to almost all of us,” the text says. “He laughed when confronted with the toll his abuse had taken. He pursued us in every way and tried to destroy us when we resisted.”
Silva’s 17-year-old son, who was at Art Basel, apparently spotted the billboard and was “devastated to see his father portrayed in this way. This has caused extreme emotional distress to Mr. Silva and his family,” the lawsuit, which is seeking damages, states.
But the lawsuit says that the billboards were not the only place where dark accusations were made about Silva, whom his lawyers describe as a “successful businessman, a philanthropist, and a devoted husband and father.”
On April 19, Silva filed a federal motion to get Reddit to divulge the names of “several anonymous individuals” who posted “defamatory remarks” about him in a slew of Reddit forums, including r/NYC, r/Miami, r/Florida, r/Chicago, r/Illinois, r/London, r/metoo, r/Modeling, r/sexualassault, r/TwoXChromosomes, r/abusesurvivors, r/emotionalabuse.
Silva says the mystery posters also created a Reddit forum called r/SOSSilvaSurvivors which only had a few followers, but tagged other, more popular Reddit forums “to deliberately ensure that followers of those forums would see the statements.”
“For years, we have stayed silent, until one member had the courage to tell her story, which we will repost and pin in this community,” the forum, which remains live as of Friday night, tells visitors. “… If you have had a similar experience, we offer this space as a safe place to post your story without fear of suppression or banishment. We are all here to support you, comfort you, and help you in your journey for healing.”
“Collectively, there are roughly 16.1 million members in these Reddit forums,” the motion states. “Similarly, Defendants published false and defamatory statements on the Twitter account with the handle @SOSSilva7.”
On April 20, Silva filed a similar motion to compel the Elon Musk-owned platform to identify whoever is behind it.
Each tweet was “published directly to various media outlets by tagging them in the posts: the Miami Herald, Miami New Times, Miami Beach News, and the account for the international arts festival, Art Basel,” the filing states.
Then, of course, there was the website. Silva’s filings call the 226 words on sossilva.org “tortious,” arguing that its “contents are available to members of the public, some of whom have viewed it and reshared the link to the website on social media platforms like Reddit.”
The motions against Reddit and Twitter note that Silva is preparing to subpoena several people in his defamation battle—and has now “engaged a private investigator to assist in identifying” his anonymous accusers. Neither company had filed a response, as of Friday. Silva’s lawsuit against the mobile billboard company in Florida is headed for mediation, according to court records.
It likely won’t be easy for Silva to pry loose any info from Reddit, which has “a strong interest in not doxing its users,” according to Los Angeles attorney Camron Dowlatshahi.
Doing so would be antithetical to Reddit’s very existence, Dowlatshahi told The Daily Beast.
“If Reddit volunteered its users’ information any time someone sued for defamation, it would eviscerate the entire premise of Reddit,” he said.
Silva faces an additional hurdle, he added. California and Florida, like most states, have laws prohibiting lawsuits against individuals for exercising their right to free speech in connection with a public issue, Dowlatshahi said. And as a public figure, Silva’s alleged sexual misconduct ostensibly constitutes a matter of public importance. According to Dowlatshashi, this means the burden is Silva’s to show evidence of falsity and actual malice, which is a high bar to clear.
Meanwhile, sossilva.org is also still up and viewable to anyone online.
“Like Epstein before him, he sheltered himself from any blowback through his wealth and his connections. Today we say no more,” it says, adding, “We will not rest until the world knows who Riccardo Silva really is. Not the patron of the arts or football enthusiast or business ‘mogul,’ but a thug. An animal. A coward. An absentee father to children he denies. Your crimes will be exposed.”