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Bulletins

Gorsuch thinks US should revisit libel laws over online misinformation

His conservative colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, also said he would have heard a case that challenged the bedrock of modern media law.

The U.S. Supreme Court

Conservative Justices Gorsuch and Thomas argued the U.S. should revisit interpretations of libel law to address online misinformation.

Photo: Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote Friday that the Supreme Court should consider revising its standards on libel to counteract misinformation in the digital age.


Saying that he would have taken up a case that the court declined to hear, the conservative appointed by President Trump criticized the actual malice standard in libel law cases, which says that media organizations can be held liable for putting out false information about "public figures" only if they knew it was false or recklessly disregarded whether it was.

Gorsuch wrote that that standard, which originated in a 1964 decision that the media now relies upon to hold government officials and corporate executives to account without serious threat of lawsuits, may not make as much sense when "virtually anyone in this country can publish virtually anything for immediate consumption virtually anywhere in the world."

He said the standard incentivized ignorance over traditional journalistic practices and favored "those who can disseminate the most sensational information as efficiently as possible without any particular concern for truth."

Gorsuch's conservative colleague, Clarence Thomas, who has suggested treating social media as utilities bound to carry all political speech and ending tech's prized legal shield, cited Pizzagate in his own writing on why he would have taken the case.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mislabeled libel: It's a civil action. This story was updated on July 2, 2021.

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Image: Google

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Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

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