The Delaware Superior Court issued a ruling on July 20, 2021 dismissing a lawsuit brought by Candace Owens against USA Today and Lead Stories, LLC for their role in labeling her Facebook posts about the coronavirus as false.
How we got here: In April of 2020, Owens posted claims on Facebook that the way the U.S. government calculated COVID-19 deaths exaggerated the scope of the pandemic. Subsequently, Facebook paid Lead Stories, a Colorado-based entity, to examine Owens’ posts and publish a fact-checking article as to whether the posts contained false information.
In the fact-checking article, Lead Stories labeled Owens’ posts as “False” with the heading “Hoax Alert.”
USA Today also published a fact-checking article stating that Owens’ posts contained false information.
Facebook eventually put a false information warning label on Owens’ post, prompting Owens to sue USA Today and Lead Stories for intentional interference with contractual relations, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and unfair competition. She also filed claims against Lead Stories for defamation.
In her lawsuit, Owens claimed that the fact-checking articles interfered with her ability to derive advertising revenue from Facebook and prevented her from marketing her book, “Blackout.”
In detail: In dismissing the lawsuit, Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz noted that “the readers would have understood ‘Hoax Alert’ as a rhetorical hyperbole implying that the Owens’ Post carries inaccurate information and that the readers should proceed cautiously when reading the post.”
Judge Karsnitz ruled that Owens failed to demonstrate in her filing that the statements in the Lead Stories article were false under the “reasonable conceivability” standard applied to such cases.
Conclusion: As a result, the court dismissed all of Owens’ claims, noting that “the alleged interference was protected by the First Amendment.”
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