On February 15th, a jury in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by Sarah Palin, a former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate in 2008, against The New York Times. The decision came a day before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said that he planned to dismiss the suit if the jury sided with Palin. Rakoff maintained that Palin’s lawyers were unable to prove the newspaper published with “actual malice” when it incorrectly linked her to a mass shooting in a Times editorial.
Disinformation is more pernicious and widespread today than at any other point in history, largely because of social media and the Internet. For instance, it is now widely known—and verified by the U.S. intelligence community—that Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
A Georgia mother and daughter who processed ballots in Atlanta for the 2020 presidential election are suing The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing conspiracy theory website, for falsely claiming they manipulated ballots. According to the complaint filed in the circuit court for St. Louis City, Missouri, by Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shay” Moss, the website published dozens of false stories about them, calling them “crooked Democrats” and claiming that they “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.”
On November 28th, Mark Esper, who served as the defense secretary during the Trump administration, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DoD) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In his complaint, Esper says the DoD has “unlawfully imposed a prior restraint upon Mr. Esper by delaying, obstructing and infringing on his constitutional right to publish his unclassified manuscript entitled ‘A Sacred Oath’.”
On November 12th, Summer Zervos, a former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant, settled her defamation suit against Donald Trump. Zervos sued Trump just days before he took office in 2016 after he called her a liar when she accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007. For the majority of Trump’s term in office, the lawsuit was stalled by a debate over whether the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution barred state courts from interfering with a sitting president’s official duties.
James Savage, a supervisor of a voting machine warehouse in the Philadelphia suburbs is Donald Trump, his two former attorneys Rudy Guiliani and Jenna Ellis, and two GOP poll watchers for defamation and civil conspiracy. The lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia county court, alleges that Gregory Stenstrom and Leah Hoopes, the two GOP poll watchers, falsely claimed that Savage altered the vote tabulation of the 2020 presidential election and gave Joe Biden 50,000 additional votes.
On November 3rd, Smartmatic, an election technology company, sued One America News Network (OANN) and Newsmax for defamation over claims related to the 2020 presidential election. The lawsuits, filed against OANN in Washington D.C. and against Newsmax in Delaware, allege that the conservative news organizations aired dozens of reports accusing Smartmatic of participating in a conspiracy to rig the election against Donald Trump.
In his new book, "The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder," Robert Corn-Revere asks a simple question: what characterizes the psychology of a censor? For Corn-Revere, the attitudes of moral crusaders have been fairly consistent over the last 200 years: they are marked at once by a rigid certainty that the ideas they target are indisputably harmful and an insecure defensiveness stemming from the awareness that most people will reject their attempts at censorship.