Tag Archives: libel

Can media be protected by the First amendment when publishing fake news?

Recently, fake news has been a major conflict in today’s media. With many outlets publishing articles to persuade the public politically, it is difficult to find a reliable source. With the First Amendment in place, it is challenging for fake news to be obliterated. Slander and libel is against the law to prevent media outlets from using someone’s name to purposely damage their reputation and cause someone to lose money.  So where do we draw the line?

In 1964, the New York Times published an ad defending Martin Luther King Jr. that included some deceptive language. The safety commissioner, L.B. Sullivan, felt that the ad was slanderous towards him and requested that the Times take down the information. The Times refused, so Sullivan filed for libel action and received $500,000 in compensation.  The First Amendment was put in place to prevent these types of actions from happening in the United States. The lawsuit proves that libel laws could be used improperly to silence a group of people.

Issues arise with slander and libel laws when fake news is a large proportion of media attention today. It has always been the media’s job to accurately inform the public about what is going in the world. News sources such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and CBS try to stay clear of fake news, although sometimes it is able to leak through background checks and make it to the public. One of the worst ways of getting news is through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Any account can make up a story a story and post it to their followers to share. This is typically how fake news can spread and affect elections and people’s lives.  With the increase of false information, there are more ways to find out if an article is reliable. The concern is that if fake news was completely wiped out, people may be improperly silenced.

In conclusion, the First Amendment was set into place to protect the press from being constricted or altered by the government. These ideas should still be present in today’s society despite the recent spike in fake news.


Fake News

Topic: Should the press be allowed to lie under the First Amendment?

In today’s day and age, the press is more focused on selling a story to make money rather than informing the public with real news. More often than not, this means lying or “stretching the truth” to make stories more appealing. For decades, people have been debating whether or not the press should be able to lie under the First Amendment. While there are laws prohibiting libel, there are still many libel cases reported every year since it is difficult to prove libel.

In order to win a libel case today, you must be able to prove that the editor or publisher made false statements knowing them to be untrue or that they were acting with malice. This became a rule after one of the most famous libel cases in history, the 1964 case: New York Times Company v. Sullivan. This case began after the New York Times published an ad requested donations to bail Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail. After reading the ad, Public Safety Commissioner, L.B. Sullivan found that the false information in the article was harmful to the reputation of his team. Sullivan was eventually rewarded $500,000, but that was not the end of this case. After reconsidering the case, Justice William Brennan concluded that under the First and Fourteenth amendments, Sullivan could only prevail a libel suit if he was able to prove that the publisher was acting with malice and intentional falsity. Following this case, libel laws were adjusted to focus on protecting an honestly earned reputation rather than getting compensation for a damaged reputation.

While libel laws have gotten much clearer over the years, there are still issues today that amount from lies published by the press. In a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University, research found that three out of four Americans believe that the media routinely reports fake news. If we can’t rely on the media to report accurate news, then how are we supposed to be aware of what is happening around us? Personally, I believe that our current libel laws have appropriate guidelines, but the punishments are not large enough. I agree with our current laws that require people to prove malicious intent in order to win a libel case. If this was not required, people would sue for libel just because they do not agree with a post. Time and time again, celebrities sue reporting agencies for defamation, but reporting agencies continue to publish lies. If our libel laws had harsher punishments, then maybe news companies would stop publishing fake news. I understand that news companies need to make their stories interesting to attract readers, but they should not be allowed to stretch the truth when it means harming somebody else’s reputation. There is a line between publishing fake news and posting your personal opinion. I believe that individuals should be able to post their opinions online as long as they do not have malicious intent. The goal of stricter libel laws would not be to stop people from sharing their opinions, but rather stopping people from posting misleading and/or harmful information.

The United States is known for protecting freedom of speech under the First Amendment, but there are limitations to this freedom. I believe that our current libel laws allow people to post what they want online, but that can result in defaming statements and accusations. Our libel laws are important to protect us, but they should have stronger punishments in order to protect reputations by preventing the press from publishing harmful articles in the first place. Some small adjustments to our current laws can result in a future with accurate news that is free of harmful comments.

Feeney, Ryan. “Chilling Free Speech.” Quill Vol.96, No.7, Sep. 2008, pp. pp. 28+. SIRS Issues Researcher,


Kirtley, Jane E. “Getting to the Truth: Fake News, Libel Laws, and ‘Enemies of the American People.’” Human

Rights, vol. 43, no. 4, July 2018, p. 6. EBSCOhost,


MOSKOWITZ, DANIEL B. “Drawing a Line on Libel.” American History, vol. 51, no. 1, Apr. 2019, p. 22.


ive&scope=site.”New York Times Company v. Sullivan.” Oyez, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1963/39.

To What Extent Can the School Limit Students First Amendment Rights?

Libel, slander, hate speech, political campaigning how much should schools be allowed to monitor when it comes to speech? The first amendment says that the government must allow people to speak their mind, write what they want, and protest. This is a grey area for many current high school students. How far can a high school student go in or outside of school. In 1969 the supreme court attempted to bring some light to this issue. The supreme court ruled that in the case of Tinker v. Des Moines that students are free to protest. This momentous decision protects students first amendment right, unless the student is found to be disruptive. For a long time this issue has gone unquestioned but once again it is being questioned. What can and can’t a student say?

There have been countless cases in which students have been upset with the schools response to their social media posts. These controversies raise the question; how much control do schools have over student outside of school? A recent case in 2013 a student at a school in Nevada was expelled from school for some instant messages. The student had been messaging other students his wide collection of guns, along with threatening comments about shooting up the school. The school board caught wind of this and immediately took action. This decision led to a debate how far can schools go when it comes to suppressing a students speech. This case has been a guiding light showing that schools have got to make on the ball decisions using common sense. Do not interrupt students first amendment unless it is proving to be putting others in danger. This action potentially saved lives. I believe without a doubt that schools should protect their students, our safety is first priority.

Tags: Libel, Slander, First Amendment, Tinker Vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District

Is Satire protected by the First Amendment?

How is it that publications are able to print lies and fiction articles to the public without it being considered libel?

To start, satire is something so dramatized and exaggerated that it is obviously fake and nobody really believes it. The debate of why satire is protected under the First Amendment was tested in a court case called the Hustler v. Falwell case. This grabbed many peoples attention as it was a big deal to the public. Hustler magazine published an article that included reverend Falwell, with the topic of “Celebrity First Times.” Falwell took the publisher, Larry Flynn to Court. The court ruled in favor of Hustler magazine in support that it is a type of publication that is bound to produce sensitive material and it’s all under a matter of public opinion, in other words, they are unable to do anything because this is a perfect example of satire and that means it is protected. In addition to this there is a media company called, The Onion, they produce content about modern day events, particularly politics and exaggerate their material so far it is obvious to the public that it is fictional. It’s been up for debate wether or not this should be protected by the First Amendment. Although, it’s been proved again and again the government can not touch this ‘news’ site due satire being protected.

Now the topic of satire being protected by the First Amendment will never be put to rest, somebody somewhere will always have an issue with something somebody has said. The point of these major companies who produce these fictional stories is to make people laugh, make something so serious, such as politics more light hearted. It is not the governments job to decide what can be written for the public to read. For the differences in peoples opinions and beliefs, it is not anyones choice to tell people what they can and can not write about.

“Hustler V. Falwell: 25 Years Of Protected Satire.” HuffPost. N. p., 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2019.

” Parody & Satire | Freedom Forum Institute.” Freedomforuminstitute.org. N. p., 2019. Web. 28 Feb. 2019.

Theonion.com. N. p., 2019. Web. 28 Feb. 2019.

Is lying in the press protected under the First Amendment?

The moment something is posted on the media, people are instantly taking what’s put out there and questioning whether it is true or not. Freedom of the press is believed to be protected under the First Amendment, but not at the case when it is damaging to someone’s reputation, known as libel, or putting out false information that people might believe is true. A specific example of someone’s reputation put on the line by lies in the press is a court case New York Times vs Sullivan in 1964. In this case, there was an article written about the treatment of civil rights protests by the police in Montgomery, Alabama. In the article, there were false statements made about L.B Sullivan, one of the police officers at the time, and he considered the information to be ruining his reputation. He sued the New York Times because of it, and the Alabama court then ruled in favor of him, but once it made it to the US Supreme Court they argued that the article was not meant to hurt his reputation and that it was protected by the First Amendment.  Another case of this was the Shaefer vs United States which had to deal with some guys making false publications which violated the Espionage Act of 1917  because what they wrote could hinder the US war effort. Based on these cases does lying to the press violate limits of the First Amendment?

To answer that question, I can blatantly say it is wrong to lie to the press and should not be protected under the First Amendment. First off, any sort of lying statements in the press causes disaster. People will not know what to believe and there could be so many different sources saying different things. This would be extremely dangerous, especially if it was about something serious. This poses a threat to all people in the public. Where we might see lying in the press is from The New York Times who is known for allegedly lying often. From the article, it is believed they make these false claims to “sway public policy” but they have no right to do so even under the First Amendment. Again lying in the press causes for the source to be less credible and people will be less likely to ever believe anything put out from there again. If reporters don’t stay honest, they are going to be threatening their trust with the public because one wrong or misleading statement and the people won’t listen again. A book was written about lying by Sissela Bok, in her book she talks about how lying has kind of become apart of people’s lives, whether it’s a little personal lie or a lie about something in the media. However, she really states how honesty helps for people to believe the reporters because otherwise if we know they usually lie when we see something written by them, who will read it? She then goes into more detail about how lying has become more “open today”. Lying essentially is all around us and often personal lies that are backed up as necessary. This, however, is different than lying to a source that is going to put information out for the entire population to read. It helps show where a fine line between lying comes into play.  More about her book and belief on lying visit: link.  All in all, when someone is going to state something in the press it should be checked for accuracy and make sure it does not deliberately ruin someone’s reputation so we can ensure we are getting valid information from our sources. The First Amendment might protect freedom of the press, but I believe any sort of false statements that are put out there about something that could put someone in danger or defamation, that is violating the limits of the first amendment.


“Constitution Check: Is Lying Ever Protected By The First Amendment? – National Constitution Center”. National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.Org, 2019, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/constitution-check-is-lying-ever-protected-by-the-first-amendment. Accessed 1 Mar 2019.

“Does The First Amendment Protect False And Misleading Speech? – Ipwatchdog.Com | Patents & Patent Law”. Ipwatchdog.Com | Patents & Patent Law, 2019, http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2012/02/09/does-the-first-amendment-protect-false-and-misleading-speech/id=22202/.

“New York Times V. Sullivan Podcast”. United States Courts, 2019, https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/supreme-court-landmarks/new-york-times-v-sullivan-podcast.

“Schaefer V. United States”. Mtsu.Edu, 2019, https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/192/schaefer-v-united-states. Accessed 1 Mar 2019.

“The truth about lying.” Columbia Journalism Review, vol. 36, no. 1, 1997, p. 6. Student Resources In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A19437034/SUIC?u=mono131514&sid=SUIC&xid=0b21813c. Accessed 1 Mar. 2019.

“U.S. Congress Passes Espionage Act”. HISTORY, 2019, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-congress-passes-espionage-act. Accessed 1 Mar 2019.

Banished or Removed

Should there be a limit on what twitter users can say? Does the government have the full right to ban you from the site or is that taking it too far? We all have the right to say what we want, but that’s not what Heidi Beirich, the head of the SPLCIP thinks. She states that she honors the 1st Amendment, but only as an idea. She strictly says that “only the government is allowed to restrict free speech.” A big issue was about Alex Jones and how he is “permanently suspended” from twitter for his tweet that was harassment. Freedom of the press is involved with this issue, and is the main way we all communicate and express what is going on in the world. Twitter has changed their guidelines so that everyone knows what you can and can’t be posting on social media. Twitter has the right to ban users in every way from publishing their policy that everyone is eligible to read, and should.

Another big issue was said on The Hook, that Pewdiepie was banned from making a joke about ISIS. Comments come to a point where you should know what you should and shouldn’t say, and this was on of them. Although we do have freedom of speech, we want to keep our country safe and jokes about ISIS aren’t necessary.

How Far Can Satire Go

Many people use satire to express and exaggerate points and ideas, people may use it for humor. This can cause an unwanted focus of negative attention to the person getting targeted. This brings the question of is there a line between satire and libel. People argue that satire is a way to humor and criticize people, the news, and the government. Which is protected under the First Amendment, but can this go too far. One Example of this happening is Hustler Magazine, Inc. et al. v. Jerry FalwellIn this court case the company Hustler Magazine known for there pornography magazine started to put inappropriate ads of Jerry Falwell a well respected public preacher in there magazine. These Ads of him would include pictures of Jerry having drunk sexual encounters with mother and also other men. Obviously people knew this was not true but Jerry Falwell felt as if he and his career were getting targeted. Jerry Falwell tried suing  Hustler Magazine but didn’t get anything out of it.  One way that satire is acceptable is when it is being used in the right way. You may be thinking that there is no “right way” to use satire but I believe that when it is used to target someone and push humor to someone that is irrelevant just hurts someones image, spreading fake news in a way. Talk show comedians such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah are excerpts in using satire to make there shows knowledgeable and entertaining. They do a good job of taking a topic that the public is familiar with, or explaining news that is currently happening so that everyone is on the same page for the joke. Then they will make fun of the topic by over exaggerating it and adding many sarcastic comments. What I like about these comedians is that they don’t make jokes at overly sensitive topics, and will let you know when they are being serious. This makes is so that there is no confusion they are making fun of something they shouldn’t have. This way of bringing news in an entertaining way has had a giant impact on how we perceive the news. Overall Using satire is a great way to lighten up topics and make jokes, but this humor needs to be obvious and appropriate. Because if you are not clear your words might be perceived and something else.

Works Cited:

N.a. “Freedom of Speech – Why Satire is Protected – HG.org.” Hg.org. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=34438&gt;

N.a. “Parody & satire.” Newseuminstitute.org. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <http://www.newseuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-speech-2/arts-first-amendment-overview/parody-satire/&gt;

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. “How Jon Stewart changed the world.” Bbc.com. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150806-how-jon-stewart-changed-the-world&gt;