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Opinion >  Letters

Hold fake news accountable

OK. Can someone please explain the differences between the impact of fake news and yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater? I believe that the potential for tragic outcomes is very much the same.

When Justice Holmes made the ruling in Schenck v. United States he said that “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” It is the “falsely” part of this frequently quoted judicial decision that creates the majority of problems.

Many try to say that all speech is “free speech.” Justice Holmes’ decision makes it clear that this cannot be the case. Free speech has limits and when someone knowingly spreads false information, they can – and must – be held responsible for their actions. When people are told lies and they then act on that information, the purveyor of those lies must be held accountable for any and all damages.

Case in point, when a gunman drives from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. because he believes that children are being abused, the perpetrator of those false news stories must be held accountable. The purveyors must be held accountable for all harm and damages that were done. We must be held accountable if we spread false rumors that are presented to be the truth.

With the explosion of social media, it is essential that some standards of truth and accuracy be established. The outcome of the 2016 elections reveal just how little examination of “news” was made.

Gil Beyer

Sandpoint



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