Fox Settlement Is a Victory for Dominion. But the Misinformation War Continues.
There are 787 million reasons to believe that the settlement of the Fox News defamation lawsuit is a stunning victory for Dominion Voting Systems. It remains unclear whether the millions of dollars Fox is paying Dominion will quell false claims about the 2020 presidential election or help deter misinformation more broadly.
Conspiracy theories about the company continue to thrive amid a blinking information bubble in which lies have been fabricated and spread about vote rigging by Dominion. clearly.
And Dominion is just part of a broader conspiracy theory that America’s electoral system is corrupt. Former President Donald J. Trump, who remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, still stands despite all the evidence against his views.
“One of the strengths of that conspiracy theory is that there are so many different factors that lead to the conclusion of a fraudulent election that you can actually destroy one thread or one thread and still maintain it. There are enough threads left in the database,” says Kathleen. She is director of the Annenberg Center for Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, FactCheck.org.
The $787.5 million settlement is one of the largest defamation cases in history and will undoubtedly have a punitive effect on Fox. As with last year’s ruling against broadcaster Alex Jones, who was ordered to pay more than $1.4 billion for defaming the families of schoolchildren murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the results show who spread lies. It showed that lying can be expensive for
Still, Jones continues to broadcast on conspiracy news site Infowars while employing legal tactics that help him avoid some of the financial penalties.
For researchers studying disinformation, the abrupt end to the lawsuit against Fox suggests that the lengthy trial, along with testimony from a host who repeatedly made accusations against Dominion that he knew to be false, pushed for lies and conspiracies. It dashed hopes of doing more to reveal the dangerous consequences of
Nora Benavidez, senior counsel at Free Press, a digital rights and accountability advocacy group, was among those expressing disappointment. She said the settlement, which is half the amount Dominion originally sought, reflects Fox’s “desire to avoid revealing any more material facts during the trial.”
“But money alone cannot hold us accountable or fix the ongoing harm Fox News is causing to democracy,” she said. is the cost of lying, then again, what is the cost of curing that lie?”
Fox escaped an extended and potentially damaging testimony. The network didn’t have to issue an apology on air. Instead, in a carefully crafted statement, Fox acknowledged “a court ruling finding certain claims about Dominion to be false” and touted its “continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.” Did.
Major news networks turned Tuesday to cover the trial’s abrupt end, but Fox spent just six minutes and 22 seconds on the topic across three segments. None of its primetime hosts, including Tucker Carlson, named as a defendant in the Dominion lawsuit, have addressed the case.
Instead, Carlson began the show with a segment about violence in Chicago and aired video clips that primarily showed blacks in Chicago. weekend of violence“This is why we shot the looters,” he said. This was followed by an interview with Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and new owner of his Twitter.
“What are you thinking when you look at Tucker Carlson?” Mr. Jamison said. “Crime in the City, not Fox’s reconciliation, interesting interview with Musk. And now the media of the day is telling us that his diet matters.”
A similar phenomenon unfolded in other right-wing media outlets after the settlement. Gateway, his pandit known for pushing voter fraud conspiracy theories, did not update his 55-word article on Tuesday, although he contributed just one.
Comments left by readers were far more wordy, with nearly 4,000 messages provoking new conspiracy theories. Among them, the Fox News settlement would allow Dominion to extract debilitating amounts of money from Fox’s competitors, including conservative news networks One America News and Newsmax, which Dominion sued. Some say it was a useful and clever ploy.
Two hours after the settlement was announced, a reference to the discredited film 2000 Mules, which spun an elaborate theory about people dropping thousands of ballots into drop-boxes, according to research firm Signal Labs. It has surged significantly online. activity online. Mentions spiked again Wednesday after prominent Twitter commentator Rogan O’Handley accused those “rooting” for the settlement. ‘ he wrote.
On the freewheeling social media app Telegram, users claimed without evidence that the deal was a way for Fox to launder money. That the network had colluded with the Dominion to orchestrate an election coup. The Dominion was trying to avoid a trial that exposed its corrupt practices. The judicial system was controlled by the mafia.
Even if the Dominion victory causes the press to reconsider before reporting lies about future election technology vendors, the damage has already been done.
Lawrence Norden, senior director of election and government programs at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the settlement would protect election officials who were abused by anonymous conspiracy theorists and voters misled by false statements about voter fraud. said that it was of little use to
“Lies about our elections have really flooded our society and I think that hasn’t changed,” he said. “Not all of these lies involve the possibility of a defamation lawsuit.
Legal experts said Dominion’s lawsuit against Fox has several key features that set it apart. A voting technology company has compiled evidence that suggests some Fox hosts shared false election fraud stories with viewers even though they personally expressed serious concerns about the allegations. The company had also filed papers alleging that Fox’s repeated election lies caused Dominion to lose its business.
In fact, the judiciary has emerged as a bulwark in the fight against misinformation, not just in extreme cases focused on defamation, such as those involving Fox News and Mr. Jones. A court challenge to the 2020 ballot was dismissed for lack of evidence. Earlier this week, an arbitration court debunked claims against My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, who, among other things, claimed China had voted fraudulently, as part of “Prove Mike” software to his engineers. ordered to pay a reward of $5,000,000. Wrong” contest.
The legal tradition that allowed Dominion’s attorneys to receive disastrous emails from Fox executives and casters and make them part of the public record makes the allegations unfounded as a matter of record. It was essential for proving something.
“Before giving up on the system’s ability to determine what constitutes a known fact at this point, I must say the court has worked well so far,” Jamieson said.
Election misinformation will almost certainly continue to be a problem as we head into the 2024 presidential election. Norden said it would be difficult to deal with, but not hopeless. While some hardcore conspiracy theorists may never be sure of the legitimacy of the vote, many people are simply unfamiliar with how American elections work and trust the system more when exposed to accurate information. You will be able to
“We know what’s going to happen, and ahead of the next election, most of us have an opportunity to become more resilient to it,” Norden said. “I don’t think a defamation lawsuit alone will solve this issue, but there’s a lot he can do between now and November 2024.”