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Political Litigation

Delaware Court: Conservative Commentator Candace Owens Can’t Sue Over Facebook “Hoax” Alert

— February 25, 2022

Owens sued USA Today and Lead Stories LLC for indicating that her Facebook posts on coronavirus may have contained “false” information.

The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by conservative political commentator Candace Owens, who sued USA Today and Lead Stories LLC for fact-checking coronavirus-related posts she made on Facebook.

According to The Associated Press, the decision comes two weeks after Owens and opposing counsel offered oral arguments.

In their decision, the bench upheld Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz’s dismissal of Owens’ claim.

Karsnitz had earlier found that Owens had failed to articulate an actionable claim against either of the two defendants.

Lead Stories, notes The Associated Press, is paid by Facebook to publish fact-check articles and notices. As part of its contract, Lead Stories determines whether posts may contain false information—and warns Facebook users when a source may not be trustworthy.

Facebook and Twitter icons together on a smartphone screen; image by LoboStudioHamburg, via
Facebook and Twitter icons together on a smartphone screen; image by LoboStudioHamburg, via

Owens filed suit after Lead Stories published an article in April 2020, in which Owens said the way government officials registered coronavirus-related deaths exaggerated the disease’s dangers.

Lead Stories rated Owens’ claims “False” and called a “Hoax Alert.”

After USA Today similarly derided Owens’ commentary, Facebook affixed “false information” warnings to Owens’ post.

While Owens does not appear to have contested that her post may have contained inaccurate or false information, her lawsuit alleges that fact-checkers and “false information” warnings limited her advertising revenue and jeopardized the success of her book “Blackout.”

In his decision, Karsnitz said that Owens failed to evidence that Lead Stories were false; he also opined that most readers would not interpret “Hoax Alert” to mean that Owens was lying, or intentionally spreading a lie, instead calling it “loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language.”

Karsnitz, adds The Associated Press, was quick to note that Owens’ claim was overtly political.

However, Karsnitz said that he would overlook the political aspects of the case to ensure justice.

“The political aspects of this case are manifest but must be ignored in favor of application of the law,” Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz wrote in his ruling.

Addressing another of Owens’ claims—that the defendant organizations interfered in her advertising contract with Facebook—Karsnitz observed there was no reasonable way Owens could demonstrate that either USA Today or Lead Stories LLC had made “improper” statements or taken “wrongful” action.

“A tortious interference claim cannot survive if the claim is premised solely on statements that are protected by the First Amendment because the exercise of constitutionally protected speech cannot be an ‘improper’ or ‘wrongful’ action,” Karsnitz wrote.


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