Fox News reaches settlement, avoids controversial misinformation trial

Fox News reaches settlement, avoids controversial misinformation trial

Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. reached a $787.5 million settlement with electronic voting company Dominion Voting Systems on April 18 to avoid a trial regarding Fox News’ role in spreading misinformation during the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against Fox News for $1.6 billion in 2021, alleging Fox News anchors made false claims about the company’s voting technology during the 2020 election.
According to Dominion Voting Systems, certain Fox News anchors claimed Dominion technology directly switched votes from President Trump to President Biden.

Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit working to increase transparency in voting technology, said the settlement ultimately came down to a business deal.

“As much as America hoped the Dominion versus Fox lawsuit was going to be their ability to hold Fox accountable, (the lawsuit) was a transactional matter between two companies,” Miller said. “Dominion was able to make a compelling case that their brand had been materially damaged by incessant misinformation that Fox was all too willing to proliferate for the sake of their viewing audience.”

Ted Glasser, Professor Emeritus of Communication at Stanford University, said the case centered around the definition of actual malice, referencing the 1964 Supreme Court decision of New York Times vs. Sullivan.

To demonstrate actual malice was committed, Dominion had to prove Fox had real intent to cause damage to their company or recklessly disregarded the truth.

“This (lawsuit) involves libel,” Glasser said. “In particular, the standard of liability described in a famous decision in 1964 said the press is protected from coverage of public affairs, so long as they don’t engage in actual malice.”

Glasser said the goal of the trial would have been to decide whether Fox News’ false claims were unintentional or deliberate.

“The judge had already ruled that the statements at issue were false,” Glasser said. “What the jury (would have) needed to do is decide whether Fox engaged in a reckless disregard of the truth or whether they knowingly published (false statements).”

According to court documents filed by Dominion, multiple private emails and text messages between some Fox News anchors prove that the Fox News hosts knew they were propagating false information.
Former late-night anchor Tucker Carlson said the allegations against Dominion were “absurd” in a private text message to his producer.

“(Dominion’s) attorneys could make a pretty strong case that some of the people on the air for Fox who made those statements either had serious doubts about the truth of the statements,” Brenner said. “That showed up in the disconnect between what they were saying or writing off air versus what was on air.”

U.S. Government and History teacher Adam Yonkers said the settlement demonstrated the lengths Fox was willing to go to avoid a trial.

“Seven hundred million dollars is a lot of money,” Yonkers said. “It really shows you that (Fox News) was really unwilling to go to trial and reveal other secrets.”

Miller said Fox News’ false claims about faulty voting systems stemmed from the misinterpretation of previous scientific research on election voting security systems.

“Many years ago, the computer science community was looking at election systems and began to realize that the equipment itself is vulnerable in design,” Miller said. “(Fox News) took that information and weaponized it, converting it into allegations that (the election technology) had actually been exploited.”

Despite the momentous settlement, Miller said the Dominion lawsuit will not increase the public’s trust of the validity of elections.

“These lawsuits have done nothing to ease the apprehension and mistrust that has been sown in the public today about whether or not they can trust in the elections and their outcomes,” Miller said.

Furthermore, Miller said these cases are exacerbating the problem of decreasing election officials.

“Now there is a mass exodus of election officials from the profession, who are tired of being threatened, berated, accused, pressured and tortured,” Miller said. “The Dominion suit has magnified the issue.”
Yonkers said restoring America’s trust in the election process is crucial to maintaining democracy.

“The American public needs to restore its trust in the outcome of elections,” Yonkers said. “There is this idea within our democracy that the majority rules and there will be a transfer of power between parties. If we happen to lose sight of that, then we as a country are worse off.”

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  • R

    ReaderMay 26, 2023 at 8:25 pm

    Since there are a number of lawsuits against Fox and since this news is over a month old, you might want to be more specific in your headline.