RUDY GIULIANI LOOKS AT LAW FROM BOTH SIDES NOW
I found this piece in the Daily Beast really interesting. The gist is a comment by President Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani to the effect that even if the discredited New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop isn’t true, social media platforms should run it because “the American people are entitled to know it.”
I find that sentiment, coming from a solid supporter of President Trump, to be marinated in irony. President Trump has stated on any number of occasions that he would like to “open up” libel laws so “when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” The law that President Trump is referring to in that quote, I assume, is New York Times v. Sullivan. That 1964 case provided protection to publishers who write about public officials. The decision (which was later expanded to include “public figures”) says that publishers can’t be sued for publishing inaccurate information, so long as the publisher doesn’t knowingly publish false information.
President Trump has also criticized Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That 1996 law provides immunity to online service providers who allow third parties to post information. It says that the online service provider isn’t considered the “publisher” of the third party content. That provision is a departure from traditional libel law, which holds that anyone who publishes information – even information that another person originally drafted – is potentially liable.
Both the New York Times case and Section 230 contribute to the free flow of information, especially information about public officials and other public figures. From a policy perspective, the law doesn’t require 100% accuracy in certain circumstances.
The Trump administration on the one hand seems to object to that policy. But Mr. Giuliani’s recent statement suggests that’s maybe not the position. I guess it depends on what’s being reported.