Rescuing Our Democracy by Rethinking New York Times Co. v. Sullivan

58 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2021 Last revised: 15 Jan 2021

See all articles by David Andrew Logan

David Andrew Logan

Roger Williams University School of Law

Date Written: January 6, 2021

Abstract

New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) is an iconic decision, foundational to modern First Amendment theory, and in a string of follow-on decisions the Court firmly grounded free speech theory and practice in the need to protect democratic discourse. To do this the Court provided broad and deep protections to the publishers of falsehoods. This article recognizes that New York Times and its progeny made sense in the “public square” of an earlier era, but the justices could never have foreseen the dramatic changes in technology and the media environment in the years since, nor predict that by making defamation cases virtually impossible to win they were harming, rather than helping self-government. In part because of New York Times, the First Amendment has been weaponized, frustrating a basic requirement of a healthy democracy: the development of a set of broadly agreed-upon facts. Instead, we are subject to waves of falsehoods that swamp the ability of citizens to effectively self-govern. As a result, and despite its iconic status, New York Times needs to be reexamined and retooled to better serve our democracy.

Suggested Citation

Logan, David Andrew, Rescuing Our Democracy by Rethinking New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (January 6, 2021). Ohio State Law Journal, Forthcoming, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 209, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3761438

David Andrew Logan (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

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Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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