What happened in New York Times Co v. Sullivan?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the United States made it very hard for public officials or public figures to sue media outlets for libel or defamation.  Therefore, this was a very important case for expanding the freedom of the press.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that public figures can only be libeled or defamed if the person making the statement does so with “actual malice.”  This means that the person making the statement has to know for a fact that the statement is false or that the person has to have a “reckless disregard” for whether the statement was true.  By doing this, the Supreme Court made it very difficult for public figures to sue for libel or defamation because actual malice is a very high standard and media outlets rarely do anything that rises to this standard.

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