Is Times v. Sullivan in jeopardy?

Posted July 6, 2021

Last week, Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas called for the court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, a 1964 landmark case that made it difficult for public figures to sue for libel.

The ruling found that, in order for a public official (later to include a public figure) to sue a news organization for libel, the outlet must have published a false claim with “actual malice,” knowing that the claim was almost certainly or definitely false.

The justices wrote that the spread of misinformation online has made it easier for public figures to be severely harmed by rumors, and that the loss of reliable news sources has led to a spiral of lies spreading online.

 “What started in 1964 with a decision to tolerate the occasional falsehood to ensure robust reporting by a comparative handful of print and broadcast outlets has evolved into an ironclad subsidy for the publication of falsehoods by means and on a scale previously unimaginable," wrote Neil M. Gorsuch, associate justice of the Supreme Court.