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  1. #1
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    Would a fake news website bring lawsuits?
    Just a thought I've been having, and if anyone knows the onion, they do fake news. I'm curious though, I've never heard about them being sued. Does being known as a source for fake news mean you can't be held for libel or slander?

    Here are some examples of fake stories.

    Newly found documents show George H.W. Bush covered up his son George's cocaine arrests while President. A source who has seen the documents said..
    The reason behind the sudden drop in the pigeon population in NYC has been uncovered. A source who wished to be kept confidential said McDonald's has been catching pigeons in NYC and using them in their hamburgers. When asked about this, a spokesman for the company said, "Did people seriously think they could get real beef for a dollar?"
    A former employee of MTV's Real World, has admitted that the producers had the cast members' food laced with a neuro toxin that caused overly sexual and agressive behavior. He said this was done to make it better TV.
    Could stories like those, or even more extreme ones bring lawsuits?

    Don't know if I'd make a website like that, I don't think I'd make up anything really mean spirited like the first one either, and it would definitely have something, somewhere saying the news is fake.

    Just an idea, don't know any lawyers, so wanted to know if something like this could make me poorer than I already am, lol.

  2. #2
    Antisocial Media Expert ProWebAddict's Avatar
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    Slander is verbal, libel is written. I'm hungry so read this
    http://www.publaw.com/parody.html

  3. #3
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    Hmm.. that seemed to be more about parody and copy right law.

    And sounds like from reading it, depending on the fake story.. I might be able to be sued?

    Thanks for the link.

  4. #4
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    I think if you put "rumor has it" before any story it gives a lot of legal protection. Because youre giving a speculation and not giving a fact.
    And I would stay away from those topics you posted.

    A joke about McDonalds food can cause them damages and you would be so screwed.

    btw speaking of the onion, this is the funniest thing ever
    (dont click if youre offended easily)
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/42136

  5. #5
    Newbie EventbriteJack's Avatar
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    I guess there's fake news and then there's stuff that's so preposterous (and funny) nobody would ever think to feel libeled by it. I would say the level of humor is inversely proportional to your likelihood to get a call from a lawyer. A friend of mine (who died) used to write a blog where he pretended to conduct interviews with celebrities. He'd pretend to ask them questions, and write their pretend answers. It's still pretty funny, even posthumously -- http://www.celebrity-dream.net/index.php


    Jack

  6. #6
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    This is America. You can get sued for anything. Whether they'll win or not is another matter. But you'll still incur legal expenses if/when it happens.
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  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    As long as you don't portrait it as being fact and perhaps include a disclaimer, who could complain. Tabs do it all the time, course they aren't immune to lawsuits either. Pubs like MAD Magazine have been doing satire for many years and are still pumping them out. Call it something like twistednews . com. Ha! Just tried going there, got Google in Spanish!



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  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador Daniel M. Clark's Avatar
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    Michael nailed it on the head. If the question is "Would a fake news website bring lawsuits?", the answer is yes. A fake news website definitely can bring lawsuits. Whether or not you can defend yourself successfully is a whole 'nother question and can't be answered.

    Never underestimate the American propensity for lawsuits, regardless of merit. We - by and large - love 'em.
    Daniel M. Clark
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  9. #9
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    As of 2006, there are over 1 million lawyers in the United States, according to the American Bar Association -- more per capita than any other country.

    As the number of lawyers has increased, so has the number of civil claims, up 12 percent from 1993 to 2002. In all, over 16 million civil cases were filed in state courts in 2002, according to the State Court Guide to Statistical Reporting,
    2003, from the National Center for State Courts. Trial lawyers earned an estimated $40 billion in lawsuit awards that same year.

  10. #10
    Not that fat. ReallyBigGuy's Avatar
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    This is not legal advice, but here's my take:
    Unless you make the story so outlandish that no idiot would believe it (like most of the onion stories), you open yourself up for libel claims. Also, the onion has a name for untruths, so they are a little protected that way.
    If someone takes offence, or believes it hurt them in a financial, or other painful way though, they could sue, and if a judge agrees that your lies caused them damage, you'll pay! If you pull the "rumor has it" card, you better be able to prove that someone else said it 1st.. which sounds very unlikely in your case.
    If you wanna make fake news, keep it out of the realm of possibility, and don't use real people, or even infer with stuff like "rich blond heiress who's name resembles a city in france", or again it could cause damage.
    Something like "Yesterday a cat beat the olympic record for the pole vault" would likely be safe, but not as exciting to read as your other fake stories.

    If you're serious about it, get a lawyer, there are some places for free advice, but again, you get what you pay for, so take their stuff with a grain of salt.

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador IOWNIE's Avatar
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    Wheres Mark Welsh when you need him?

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IOWNIE
    Wheres Mark Welsh when you need him?
    You know, that's a good question. I haven't seen him around here for a while...
    (Course, what's that from me, I've only been here two months.)



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  13. #13
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    If you're serious about it
    Wasn't really serious, just an idea I was toying with. Sounds like a lot of thought and legal advice getting will be needed. So I think it might be better left as just an idea, while focusing on other projects for the time being.

    Thanks y'all for the feedback.

  14. #14
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    As of 2006, there are over 1 million lawyers in the United States, according to the American Bar Association -- more per capita than any other country.
    I wouldn't know about that, but all I know is that there are way too many of them on TV lately.

    I don't know about the rest of the country, but down here, every time you flip a channel, there is one commercial about any slip and fall, or any other injury idea of how can they get a lot of money for you, for just about anything.

  15. #15

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    TheOnion.com has been a fake news site for years and never really heard of them getting sued.

  16. #16
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nakedgamer
    TheOnion.com has been a fake news site for years and never really heard of them getting sued.
    Nakedgamer, that's a good example. A disclaimer is important in the case of a "fake news site." Here's the disclaimer from TheOnion.com:
    Copyright

    The Onion is a satirical newspaper published by Onion, Inc.

    The Onion uses invented names in all its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental. http://www.theonion.com/content/privacy
    If the "fake news site" is intended for generating revenue [and the disclaimer doesn't fully cover the content], it might be a good idea to consult an attorney.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  17. #17
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Satire and parody, the two big categories for funny fake news, are both legal. But, some people sue anyway, probably to scare other people away from satirizing them. MAD has cracked many jokes about being sued through the years. They even used to have a guy listed right in the masthead--"Jack Albert.......lawsuits." Sadly, I think they took his name off a few years ago.

    I just did a quick check in That Engine, and it turns out that Jack Albert was apparently MAD's real lawyer!

    On another note:
    The Onion doesn't just have a reputation for their fake news. There's a disclaimer on the first line of this page: http://www.theonion.com/content/faq/editorial
    Quote Originally Posted by Onion, on apparently serious page
    The Onion is a satirical weekly publication published 52 times a year on Thursdays.
    There must be legal reasons for bothering to say that.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador simcat's Avatar
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    a site like that would be good fit for the current (linkbait loving) google.

    if I had a good, cheap lawyer on retainer.

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador Daniel M. Clark's Avatar
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    Satire and parody, like Leader said, are definitely legal - and they protect artists and social commentators on a pretty regular basis. They're not foolproof though, and not protection against a lawsuit being filed. You need to prove the satire/parody in a court of law if so demanded, and the loser of the case is not always the one to pay the legal fees, so even if you successfully defend yourself, it might cost you some money.
    Daniel M. Clark
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  20. #20
    Super Cool Affiliate Manager IanBookMan's Avatar
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    the onion, cracked and other news parody sites got their fame i think by people actually beliving them and having their news featured on real sources like CNN etc.
    I cant recall the exact topics but i know its happened.
    plus they have a fair amount of fiction as well that let's the user realize this is not to be taken serious.

    if you keep it "funny" enough and a lawsuit emerges, might be a good publicity gimmick.
    but you would have to follow through with it.

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