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Cass R. Sunstein

Defamation Law Can Slow the Plague of Fake News

Challenging falsehoods about voting machines is a good place to start.

Stop the lie at the source.

Stop the lie at the source.

Photographer: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Misinformation and fake news are now threatening public health and endangering democracy itself. What might help contain the problem? Part of the answer lies in a very old remedy: the law of defamation.

To see how this might work, consider the situation of Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, two companies that provide software and other services for electronic voting machines. President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly attacked both companies, suggesting that outcomes in “Michigan, Arizona and Georgia and other states” were affected by “SMARTMATIC, who was really doing the computing. Look up SMARTMATIC and tweet me what you think?”