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Noah Feldman

Closing the Safe Harbor for Libelous Fake News

There's a way to enhance the truth while preserving the First Amendment -- and still prevent the next Pizzagate.
There are limits.
Photographer: KIRILL KUDRJAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

As things stand, Comet Ping Pong, the Washington restaurant falsely smeared as a hub for child sex trafficking in the Pizzagate mess, doesn’t have much in the way of a legal remedy. It could sue the anonymous conspiracy theory purveyors for libel, but even if it can find them, they probably don’t have any money to recover, and the damage to the restaurant’s reputation is already done.

In Europe, however, things might be different. The European Union recognizes a “right to be forgotten” on the internet, which under some conditions allows posts to be removed or blocked from search engines. Extending that kind of right to the American victims of demonstrably false news stories might actually help victims like Comet Ping Pong, who’ve been tagged with a falsehood that otherwise just won’t go away.