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United States: Media and Law Round up – July to August 2021

The US government is “deeply troubled” by the introduction of new media-oriented bill in the Polish Parliament. On Wednesday Poland’s lower house of Parliament passed the Bill. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated “this draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate”.  The Bill tightens regulations on media ownership, whether directly or indirectly, from companies outside the Economic Area.

Discovery Inc., which invests in the TVN24 news channel via an entity in the Netherlands, has said it plans to take legal action against the Polish government for potential breach of a bilateral investment treaty with the U.S. The Bill would force Discovery to sell over 50% of its stake in TVN. Discovery has previously described the Polish governments actions against its TVN business as “discriminatory”. Reuters also reports see previous context regarding Discovery’s ownership of TVN here.

The inspector general is set to investigate allegations that the National Security Agency (“NSA”) had improperly spied on a member of the news media. The speculation is that the target of the alleged improper spying was Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The NSA has taken the highly unusual action of publicly denying these allegations: “This allegation is untrue. Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air.” Reuters reports.

Facebook’s Oversight Board has found that referring to the Chinese Government s the “F***ing Chinese” is not forbidden by Facebook’s Rules; “It is crucial to ensure that prohibitions on targeting people based on protected characteristics not be construed in a manner that shields governments or institutions from criticism.”

Eugene Volokh has an insightful critique of the ACLU’s commentary on a Californian Bill that would operate to restrict speech outside vaccination sites.

US vaccinations are on the rise however the US government is unhappy with media “alarmism” the Guardian reports.

U.S. media owners and advertisers have highlighted the growing importance of streaming, Video net reports.

The New York Times has considered how misinformation is still a challenge in the post-Trump era [£].

In the Courts

Avenatti v. Fox News Network, LLC, written by Third Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas: “ News outlets are not liable for minor mistakes, especially when reporting on public figures and matters of public concern. Michael Avenatti, a famous lawyer, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Fox News covered his arrest. He sued, claiming that its reporting defamed him. But most of its statements were substantially true. And Avenatti does not plausibly plead that Fox or its employees knew that the statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility. He also fails to allege any recoverable damages. I will thus dismiss his complaint….”

Mashaud v. Boone, a case concerning an application for an injunction restraining speech amounting to harassment.

Del Nero v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc., the Court refused an attempt to retroactively seal or pseudonymize a past case.

US Dominion v Powell, Guiliani and My Pillow, the Court refused motions to dismiss the defamation claim arising out of allegations of election fraud in the 2020 Presidential elections.

Nunes v. WP Company LLC, a defamation case brought by Representative Devin Nunes against the Washington Post can proceed.  “A reasonable juror could … conclude that the article was materially false because it stated that Nunes had made … a baseless claim (when he had not).”

Fairstein v. Netflix, Inc., a prosecutors libel lawsuit against Netflix can proceed.

This Round up was complied by Suneet Sharma a junior legal professional with a particular interest and experience in media, information and privacy law.

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