Distrust, Negative First Amendment Theory, and the Regulation of Lies

Norton, Helen

Why the reflexive deployment of negative theory, which increasingly dominates the contemporary Supreme Court’s approach to Free Speech Clause problems, has its costs.


Lies and the Law
A series of public conversations and publications exploring what the law can and should do about the problem of lies and deception in the contemporary mass public sphere

The pervasiveness of lies and misinformation in public discourse in the United States, and the political and cultural power that this kind of speech can possess raise all sorts of questions about the health of U.S. democracy, about the limits of human reason, and about the role that shared beliefs play in the creation of collective identity. But it also raises important questions about the meaning of freedom of speech. One of the foundational assumptions of modern First Amendment law is that the best remedy for harmful speech—including harmfully false or misleading speech—is more speech. Does this assumption hold, given our contemporary, fragmented, highly polarized mass public sphere? And if it doesn’t, what can we do about it? More precisely, what can the law do about it? Are there cures here that would not be worse than the disease?

These are the questions that the Knight Institute examined under the direction of its 2021-2022 Senior Visiting Research Scholar Genevieve Lakier. Through a series of public conversations, publications, and a major symposium we explored what the law can and should do about the problem of lies and deception in the contemporary mass public sphere.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Knight First Amendment Institute
Knight First Amendment Institute: Lies and the Law
Published Here
February 27, 2023