By Walker Upchurch

 

Recently the issue of disinformation has plagued the United States as questions relating to voting technology have been unfairly raised. This has led to a suit from the voting machine company Smartmatic against both Newsmax and the One America News Network on the grounds that Smartmatic had been defamed.[1] Likewise, Smartmatic has also sued Fox News to the tune of $2.7 billion due to the promotion of a false narrative in the 2020 election regarding their products.[2] Within the lawsuit against Fox News, three news anchors, Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell have also been sued.[3] The complaint asserts that Giuliani and Powell both created a story about Smartmatic and that Fox News joined the conspiracy to defame and disparage Smartmatic, it’s election technology, and software.[4] The Smartmatic machines were made the media center of disinformation that stated rigged voting machines were the root cause of President Trump losing the election. [5]While there was never any actual proof of voting fraud the news companies continued to carry out their attack on the voting machine company.

According to Politico, Within the other Lawsuit One America News network has been accused of libel and slander of Smartmatic in connection with the coverage of the presidential election results.[6] The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, and states that OANN repeatedly aired false claims, including that votes cast for trump were dishonorably switched to Biden, in the months following the actual election.[7] When asked the attorneys for Smartmatic wrote in their complaint” it could have reported the truth. Instead, OANN chose to do the wrong thing every time. It reported a lie.”[8]

Similarly, Dominion has also filed lawsuits against some of the same groups, including OANN, and both voting technology companies are seeking billions of dollars in damages to their business because of liable.[9] This past August, a federal judge has declined to throw out the defamation lawsuits.[10]

It will be fascinating to see how this lawsuit materially affects politics and news as we know it. Indeed, within the news, puffery is allowed. However, if these news companies are held to task for spreading disinformation, it could perhaps leave a long-lasting positive impact. While long protected by the 1st amendment regarding the freedom of the press, it could be beneficial for all media if precedent doesn’t allow for strategic disinformation. As seen by the awful incidents on January 6th, 2021, The United States profoundly cares about its politics and spreading disinformation in an attempt not to concede power can lead to catastrophe. The good news is that the United States can hope to remedy some of the damage done to its reputation with stronger laws and precedent that do not allow powerful news corporations to be untruthful. In comparison, puffery should indeed be permitted; however, direct attacks on the companies that help with the elections by spreading disinformation that materially impacts individuals’ views regarding the trustworthiness of elections should not be permitted.

As famed President Ronald Reagan stated on the importance of order in the transition of power: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we are. In the eyes of many in this world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”[11] To continue our miraculous tradition of an orderly transition of power, we must not let this go unpunished, and set a strict legal precedent against disinformation.

 

[1] Jonah E. Browich & Michael M. Grynbaum, Smartmatic Sues Newsmax and One America News Network, Claiming Defamation, N.Y. Times, (Nov. 3, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/03/business/media/smartmatic-newsmax-oan.html.

[2] Ben Smith, Fox News Is Sued by Election Technology Company for Over $2.7 Billion, N.Y. Times, (Feb. 4, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/04/business/media/smartmatic-fox-news-lawsuit.html.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Nick Niedzwiadek, Smartmatic sues One America News over 2020 election claims, Politico, (Nov. 3, 2021), https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/03/smartmatic-sue-one-america-news-election-519077.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address of Ronald Reagan, (Jan 20, 1981), https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/reagan1.asp.

Electronic Voting, a voter showing thumbs-up over a selection on the electronic ballot.

Image Source: https://www.freeimages.com/premium/electronic-voting-thumbs-up-dem-2106550

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