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Defamation and 1st Amendment Considerations

1st Amendment Considerations

Special rules apply to defamation of celebrities and public figures and defamation by the news media. The media is not liable for the defamatory untruths they print  unless the plaintiff can prove the untruths were published with “malice” (evil intent that is the deliberate intent to injure) or with “reckless disregard for the truth.” Likewise, for a celebrity or public figure to recover for defamation, she must demonstrate that the defendant defamed her with malice or with reckless disregard for the truth.

•    Discussion: Do you believe that defamation laws violate the 1st Amendment? Why or why not? How should the rights of individuals against defamation be balanced against individual freedom of speech? Do the higher standards for defamation against celebrities, public figures, and the media effectively balance those rights? Why or why not?

•    Practice Question: Donald is running for political office. He routinely says things about his opponents that are not true. Many of the statements are very offensive and attack the opponent’s personal character. Under what conditions could Donald be liable for his statements?

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