Legal-Ease: Legalities of ‘fake news’

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

The recent election cycle brought with it the rise of fake news, spread mostly through Facebook. Many people, especially those who may be embarrassed at having spread a fake news story, often wonder why creating fake news is even legal in the first place.

Fake news still falls under protected speech, as does nearly all speech minus a few exceptions. Creating false information to promote consumer products, hate speech when designed to provoke harm or speech meant to induce panic are all subject to strict scrutiny. But in most cases, creating or passing on fake news is not unlawful. It is up to the audience to make sure they are getting accurate news from a reliable source.

I recently encountered a link on the internet to a story about the 100 hottest lawyers in America. As I clicked through the pictures of the lawyers identified in the story, I saw that my photo was apparently unintentionally omitted. I say tongue-in-cheek that I should be on every “hottest lawyer” list and that any website with such a list that excludes me is fake and should be shut down.

Fake news itself has been news lately. Various websites were created shortly before the recent presidential election. Many of those websites indicated they were news websites, but they were instead clearinghouses of fake stories designed to attract internet traffic to the websites. The internet traffic then would lead to higher advertising revenue for the specific website.

Read more about legal speech and fake news in Lee’s article in the Lima News, “Legal-Ease: Legalities of ‘fake news.'”

Source: LimaOhio.com, “Legal-Ease: Legalities of ‘fake news'” by Lee R. Schroeder, November 26, 2016

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