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US Judge Thomas, Gorsuch questions media defamation protection



(Reuters) – The US Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a case challenging libel for protection against journalists and media organizations, but Conservative judges Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch disagreed and questioned such protections rooted in a Landmark decision of 1964. [19659002] Referring to a rapidly changing media environment that is increasingly disseminated with misinformation, Justices Thomas and Gorsuch said in separate opinions that the court should take a fresh look at its precedents that make it more difficult for public figures to sue for defamation.

The court refused to bring an appeal by Shkelzën Berisha, son of a former Albanian prime minister, regarding his defamation case against him in a 201

5 book by author Guy Lawson called "Arms and the Dudes." The book was transformed into the Hollywood movie "War Dogs" 2016 with Jonah Hill and Miles Teller in the lead roles.

A lower court ruled in favor of Mr. Lawson, the book's publisher Simon & Schuster, and several others sued because the determined Berisha could not show that the allegations of his involvement in an arms trade scandal came with "real evil." The standard, which protects against libel, involves statements with the knowledge that they were false or with a ruthless disregard for whether they were true or false.

The standard was set in the court's 1964 watercourse in the New York Times against Sullivan

Judges Thomas and Gorsuch said the court should have appealed. They said that in today's media environment, evil can actually protect lies instead of truth, with real consequences. Referring to the false conspiracy theory "Pizzagate" which claimed that a pizzeria in Washington was a front for a pedophile ring led by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Justice Thomas said: "Public or private, lies inflict real harm."

Justice Thomas earlier called on the court two years ago to reconsider its condemnatory precedent when it refused to consider reviving a defamation lawsuit against actress Bill Cosby by a woman named Kathrine McKee who said the entertainer incorrectly called her a liar after she accused her. him for rape. [19659002] Justice Thomas mentioned McKee again on Friday, saying that "this court should not take away a woman's right to defend her reputation in court just because she accuses a powerful man of rape." Mr Cosby was released from prison on Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction for sexual assault in a separate case.

Justice Gorsuch said that the motivation for the actual norm of malice may be less at a time when technological change and social media mean that disinformation can be amplified better and more profitably than traditional news with fact checkers and editors.

"Not only has the doctrine evolved into a subsidy for published falsehoods on a scale no one could have foreseen, it has left many more people without compensation than anyone could have predicted," Justice Gorsuch said.

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