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Dominion vs. Fox News: What is defamation and defamation?

Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in defamation A Delaware court case begins this week. Dominion aims to prove to a jury that the network knowingly defamed the company after the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion found itself at the center of conspiracy theories pushed by Trump allies after it lost the 2020 presidential election and claims that Fox News defamed the company by airing baseless allegations about its voting machines.

What is defamation?

Defamation is the defamation of the reputation of someone or something by spoken words — slander — or written words.

To show that Fox News defamed Dominion, the company must prove several things: that Fox News made false statements it claimed were true; published or communicated that statement to another party, such as in a broadcast; damaged the reputation of Dominion; And, in this case, acted with “genuine malice.”

What happens during the trial?

A jury will have to decide whether Fox acted with “actual malice” in airing the allegations against Dominion. That means Dominion must prove, and a jury must agree, that Fox News either knew what it was broadcasting was false or had serious doubts about the truth of its reporting and acted with “reckless disregard” for the truth anyway. Plaintiffs must prove a higher standard of “actual malice” when they are considered public figures.

“When we look at a defamation case, especially one involving public affairs or public officials or public entities, knowledge of what may or may not be a false statement is an important factor,” said Roy Gutterman, director of the Newhouse School’s Tully Center. Free lectures at Syracuse University, told CBS News Streaming in a recent interview. “So since this case came to a head, the most important question we’ve been looking at is what did they know before they released the statement. And through discovery, We are learning that they knew a lot About the credibility of the statements and their sourcing, and the big question about the channels that the network puts things on the air, puts the speakers on the air, knowing they’re spreading false information. This is the textbook definition of what we call true malice.”

Defamation is difficult to prove in US courts. This is largely because a 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan ensured broad protections for media outlets as they exercise their First Amendment rights.

Fox News insists that the allegations against Dominion were newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment. Fox is expected to rely heavily on First Amendment arguments in court.

Dominion, in its complaint, argues that Fox “recklessly ignored the facts.”

“Fox endorsed, repeated and broadcast a series of verifiable false but destructive falsehoods about Dominion,” Dominion’s complaint states. “These outlandish, defamatory and far-fetched fictions include Fox falsely claiming that (1) Dominion committed election fraud by rigging the 2020 presidential election; (2) Dominion’s software and algorithms manipulated vote counts in the 2020 presidential election; (3) Dominion is a dictator.” owned a company founded in Venezuela to rig the election of Hugo Chavez; and (4) paid kickbacks to Dominion government officials who used its machines in the 2020 presidential election. Fox recklessly ignored the truth. In fact, Fox knew these statements Dominion polled were false.”

Dominion has to prove it in court.

— Melissa Quinn contributed to this report

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