By Anna Hargett

 

Smartmatic Corporation, a voting technology company, is suing Fox News for defamation.[1] Smartmatic claimed that Fox News’ disinformation surrounding election fraud “irreparably harmed” the company.[2] The plaintiffs are seeking 2.7 billion dollars in damages, which makes this case one of the largest defamation suits ever filed.[3]

 

Smartmatic alleges that Fox News wrongly accused the company in order to create a villain in the election fraud narrative.[4] Fox has responded to the allegation by noting that they are proud of their election coverage. [5]

 

This isn’t the first time that Smartmatic has gone up against Fox News.[6] In late 2020, Smartmatic warned Fox about the spread of disinformation about the election.[7] Fox responded to earlier warnings from Smartmatic by hosting technology experts to debunk the fraud theories by opining that the Smartmatic software was not used to “delete, change, or alter anything related to vote tabulation.”[8]

 

Smartmatic’s suit is not the only defamation lawsuit that has been filed by an election technology company regarding election fraud disinformation.[9] Dominion Voting Systems, which operates in 28 states, filed a defamation suit against Rudy Giuliani for $1.3 billion. Giuliani denounced the suit as an “act of intimidation.”[10]

 

Smartmatic operated its technology during the 2020 election in Los Angeles County.[11] Although Smartmatic’s role in the election was minimal, the company alleges that it was harmed by the disinformation that was disseminated by Fox News after Attorney General Barr announced that the DOJ found no evidence of voter fraud.[12]

 

The company alleges that two distinct conspiracy theories stemmed from Fox’s spread of disinformation.[13] One conspiracy theory that stemmed from the Fox newscasts included false allegations of Smartmatic ties to Venezuela.[14] Another conspiracy theory accused Dominion Voting Systems of colluding with Smartmatic by using Smartmatic’s software in swing states and that “votes were exported out of the country to be tabulated.” [15]Both theories have proven to be false.[16]

 

Lauren Coates, a legal analyst with CNN, stated that the case has merit because the defamation elements of knowingly false statements, malice, and financial damage are fulfilled by the allegations.[17]

 

Another strength of the case is that the statements made are easily debunked and thus clearly false.[18] Because of the nature of the patently false messaging, it may be easier to prove that the Fox hosts known or should have known that the statements were false.[19]

 

Jonathan Peters, a professor at UGA Law, noted that the main point of dispute in the case will likely be the public figures involved and the free speech regarding a matter of public concern.[20] Although these issues may arise, he believes Smartmatic will prevail. [21]

 

Smartmatic’s attorney responded to concerns about the free press implications of the case.[22] He stated that this suit will actually be beneficial to the profession by bringing it “back to factual reporting.”[23]

 

Smartmatic is seeking damages that were calculated based on a $767.4 decrease in profits of Smartmatic’s parent company, along with threats against its staff members and “undermined business relationships around the world.”[24] Smartmatic is also requesting a full retraction of the false statements from the Fox News hosts regarding the company.[25]

 

[1] Meghan Roos, Smartmatic Hits Fox News, Rudy Giuliani With One of the Largest Defamation Suits Ever Filed in U.S., Newsweek (Feb. 4, 2021, 2:05PM), https://www.newsweek.com/smartmatic-hits-fox-news-rudy-giuliani-one-largest-defamation-suits-ever-filed-us-1566933.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Oriana Gonzalez & Sara Fischer, Smartmatic files $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Axios (Feb. 4, 2021), https://www.axios.com/smartmatic-lawsuit-fox-giuliani-powell-4c20b97f-3009-4b79-abfa-70dd17a381ea.html.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Roos, supra, note 1.

[10] Id.

[11] Gonzalez & Fischer, supra, note 4.

[12] Associated Press, Fox News and Three Hosts Sued for $2.7 billion by Voting Machine Company Over Election-Fraud Claims, USA Today (Feb. 4, 2021, 2:47pm), https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2021/02/04/fox-news-three-hosts-trump-lawyers-sued-over-election-fraud-claims/4392023001/.

[13] Oliver Darcy, Voting Technology Company Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit Against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell Over ‘Disinformation Campaign’, Cnn Business (Feb. 4, 2021, 1:59PM), https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/04/media/smartmatic-fox-news-giuliani-powell-lawsuit/index.html.

[14]Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Oliver Darcy, ‘There Is Real Teeth to This:’ Legal Experts Weigh In On Smartmatic’s$2.7 Billion Lawsuit Against Fox News, Cnn Business (Feb. 5, 2021, 6:48 AM), https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/05/media/smartmatic-fox-news-reliable-sources/index.html.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Oliver Darcy, supra, note 13.

[25] NPR Morning Edition, NPR (Feb. 4, 2021, 2:38PM), https://www.npr.org/2021/02/04/964097006/election-tech-company-sues-fox-news-giuliani-and-others-for-2-7-billion.

Image Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/fox-news-sued-smartmatic-2-7-billion-over-rigged-election-n1256759

 

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