Using defamation suits to combat misinformation has some free speech advocates uneasy, as the First Amendment provides broad protections for news organizations.
Fox’s lawyers argue that they had a First Amendment privilege to report newsworthy allegations–even false ones–in a neutral way. They also claim that Smartmatic failed to establish a key requirement of a defamation claim—that Piro, Dobbs, and Bartiromo acted with “actual malice.”
Smartmatic claims Fox spread lies about the company it knew weren't true in order to curry favor with then-President Trump and his base. The company expects it will lose almost $500 million in the next five years due to the impact the lies have had on its business.
On January 22nd, the Texas Supreme Court rejected conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ request to toss four defamation lawsuits filed by parents whose children died in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The suits claim that Jones' statements calling the mass shooting a “giant hoax,” and accusing the parents of faking their children’s death were defamatory and caused the families emotional distress.
On January 25th, Dominion Voting System sued Donald Trump’s former attorney and former mayor of New York City Rudy Guiliani for defamation. The 107-page complaint filed in the United District Court for the District of Columbia accuses Guiliani of carrying out a “viral disinformation campaign” against the voting systems company, and having “deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”
On January 8th, Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the suit alleges that during a press conference, rally, and media appearances, Powell “falsely claimed that Dominion had rigged the election, that Dominion was created in Venezuela rig elections for Hugo Chavez, and that Dominion bribed Georgia officials for a no-bid contract.”
A federal judge in Virginia dismissed one of Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-CA) defamation suits against The Washington Post, the Federal Aviation Agency released long-awaited drone guidelines, a British judge rejected the U.S. government's request to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and more.
On December 24, 2020, a federal judge dismissed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post that was filed earlier in the year by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The suit, filed on March 3, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Nunes was defamed in a Post article that referred to a conversation Nunes had with President Donald Trump about an intelligence briefing.