- Bryan Whitman, a TikToker with 3.7 million followers, posts videos of himself ranting in his Tesla.
- One of his rants has now prompted a defamation lawsuit.
- A car wash in Orlando is suing Whitman, alleging “long-term economic harm.”
Being outrageous on TikTok can get you millions of views. But all that buzz sometimes comes at a price.
For Bryan Whitman, better known as “Bryan the Diamond” online, that price is defending himself against a defamation lawsuit from a car wash.
Whitman, who has 3.7 million followers on TikTok, has grown a massive community of fans — or “besties” — over the past year who watch his comedic rants about miscellaneous things while parked (or sometimes driving) in his Tesla (specifically, a 2020 Model S). He even has a Cameo account where fans can book him for pep talks or birthday shoutouts.
In June, after Whitman went to get his car detailed, he left upset and took to TikTok to complain.
“Tell me how I take my car to get detailed at Sparkling Image … When I go to pick up my car, I notice that my flash drive inside my car is literally broken in half,” Whitman said in a TikTok posted in June. Teslas have a flash drive installed that stores data collected by the car’s video systems.
Whitman posted a series of six TikToks about his experience at the Sparkling Image car wash in Orlando, Florida (owned by Wash Depot), in which he claimed the car wash had been deleting reviews on its page and said the business should be “shut the f— down.”
“For all my besties who are writing reviews and making sure that company knows who the f— I am, I love you,” Whitman said in the third video in the series. His six TikToks on the subject have collectively been viewed nearly 6 million times.
A few weeks later, the business sued Whitman, alleging defamation.
“Wash Depot values the integrity and safety of its hard-working employees and the stellar reputation enjoyed by its first class car wash facilities,” a company spokesperson told Insider. “We are prepared to uphold these values in court against the false and shameful attacks made against us on social media by Mr. Whitman and his followers.”
Wash Depot’s suit alleges he has done “long-term economic harm” to the company that is “expected to exceed the sum of $1,000,000.” The suit also alleges “$100,000 in business interruption losses.”
But Whitman stands by his claims.
“Bryan relayed his less than satisfactory experience with ‘Sparkling Image’ online including several TikTok videos,” Whitman’s legal representative told Insider. “In retaliation for being exposed, ‘Sparkling Image’ filed a lawsuit against Bryan that included an alleged claim for defamation. Bryan denies the claims against him as baseless and unsupported by the facts.”
Whitman’s legal rep said the influencer plans to countersue, though nothing has yet been filed.
A casual rant can have consequences
Rants (often comedic) have become a popular TikTok genre, blossoming alongside other formats like dance challenges that often pop up on TikTok’s “For You” page.
But when does entertainment cross the line into reputational harm?
“Back in the day, if you stood on the street corner and yelled about how much you hated a business, there could be some level of reputational damage,” Amanda Schreyer, a media, marketing, and technology lawyer told Insider. “Now, in just a few minutes … an influencer can reach hundreds of thousands of people.”
(Schreyer is not involved in this case.)
Wash Depot’s lawsuit claims that Whitman’s videos on TikTok were defamatory, arguing that he made “false statements” about the car wash and that he had acted with “knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard for their falsity.”
Schreyer said that for a defamation case to prevail, proving that the statements were false — in addition to proving that the publisher (such as an influencer) acted with negligence and caused damages — is crucial.
In the lawsuit, the car wash company alleges that Whitman interfered with its business relationships and caused economic harm (referred to as tortious interference). It also wants a cyberstalking injunction to stop Whitman from posting about the business.
Wash Depot claims in the suit that the Sparkling Image phone line was inundated with a “constant barrage” of calls from anonymous callers who would “scream explicit and threatening messages,” some referencing language or details from Whitman’s TikTok videos such as “Fix the Tesla!”
The suit says one employee even resigned after Whitman talked about him in a video.
“Bryan the Diamond makes reference not only to my place of work but also my vehicle,” the employee wrote, according to the suit. It also says he had written he “no longer feels safe.”
Wash Depot’s suit claims not only that it lost business and an employee due to Whitman’s rant, but that Whitman’s own business as an influencer depends on the virality of his content and the “resulting attention he draws from his horde of online ‘besties.'”