Liar, Liar: False Statements and the Freedom of Speech

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What can the government do to counter "disinformation" or other statements that it believes to be false?  The Supreme Court famously protected some false defamatory statements in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and extended that holding, in United States v. Alvarez, that the First Amendment prevented the government from punishing a speaker from falsely claiming to have won military honors.  Yet other false statements, such as fraud and perjury, may  be punished, and recently the question of the government's power to limit false speech has assumed more prominence.  

In response to the Capitol attack of January 6, 2021 and President Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen, the governor of Washington State proposed a law punishing false speech that was likely to lead to violence.  Elsewhere controversies surrounding the truth of COVID-related information have arisen and the Biden Administration's Department of Homeland Security had planned to create a board to counter disinformation.  Amid free-speech outcries, the proposal was set aside, but the Administration remains focused on combating disinformation.  This program will feature panelists with contrasting views of the government's authority in this field and  whether efforts to limit false speech represent a threat to First Amendment values.



Harmeet K. Dhillon, Founding Partner, Dhillon Law Group Inc.

Catherine Ross,  Lyle T. Alverson Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School 

Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Moderator: Hon. Donald Palmer, Commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission


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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.