A federal judge is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a decision protecting media organizations from defamation lawsuits, Politico reported.
According to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, the standard of defamation is currently too high for media outlets.
“If this were a two-sided phenomenon”
He argued that the past several years have demonstrated that news organizations are permitted to disseminate misinformation as long as they quietly issue “corrections” largely protecting them from legal repercussions.
In a lengthy dissent to The New York Times v. Sullivan decision, Silberman wrote: “It allows the press to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity. It would be one thing if this were a two-sided phenomenon.
The legal precedent essentially set the new standard of “actual malice” for a successful defamation case against a media organization.
Silberman’s assertions have not gone without criticism, though. George Washington University law professor Ira Lupu responded to the dissent, arguing that “there are going to be stories you don’t print” if defamation standards are reduced, advocating for “the press to err on the side of publishing rather than self-censorship.”
In Lupu’s opinion, the media should be generally free to publish any story deemed to be credible, ignoring the claims that many journalists have long abused those rights in pushing out fake news narratives.
“Close to one-party control”
As one stark recent example, The Washington Post recently admitted that its reporters included a fabricated quote by former President Donald Trump.
Critics have asserted that for too long the media is responsible for destroying careers and even influencing elections through bombshell reports that prove later to be misleading or false. Publishing a correction note weeks or months after the fact is not good enough.
In his dissent, Silberman went on to call the media’s power “so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions.”
He is not alone in arguing that the decision at hand deserves to be reviewed. In 2019, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a similar recommendation, and with a 6-3 conservative majority, the effort currently stands a shot at success.
Whether the high court decides to take action on the landmark case or not remains to be seen, but if The New York Times v. Sullivan is overturned, the result could change the media landscape dramatically.