Slicing Defamation by Contract

Chicago Law Review Online, 2020

11 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2020

See all articles by Yonathan A. Arbel

Yonathan A. Arbel

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: March 30, 2020


In considering the problem of fake news, many debate the merits of expanding media liability through the tort doctrine of defamation. In this Essay I present an alternative: assigning liability for false accusations by contract. I develop and examine the utility of using truth bounties — contractual agreements to pay a bounty to anyone who can falsify a story.

On reflection, contractual tools appear more productive and robust than tort liability; in particular, truth bounties can encourage responsible media reporting, crowd-source the search for truth, send a refined signal of trust in the story, and chill false reports. Truth bounties are also realistic and compatible with the incentives of media outlets, although some of the procedural details need to be developed for mass adoption.

Keywords: defamation, libel, torts, contracts, media liability, fake news, truth bounties

Suggested Citation

Arbel, Yonathan A., Slicing Defamation by Contract (March 30, 2020). Chicago Law Review Online, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Yonathan A. Arbel (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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