Beverly Hills Bar Association Presents: Defamation in the Social Media Age

April 13, 2017 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Lawry's the Prime Rib
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

The internet and social media have made our public discourse more robust than ever. Everyone with a connection has a voice. No longer are mainstream media outlets the gatekeepers or the setters of discussion agendas. This is an epoch of democratization, few barriers to entry, virtually universal access, and (for those who choose it), anonymity. Yet this explosion of communication and discourse arguably has a dark side. The quality of public discourse may not increase with the quantity of public discourse. There may be less thoughtfulness, less reflection, less attention to factual accuracy. There may be a channeling tendency, through which like-minded people communicate with like-minded people, with less exposure or authentic dialogue across lines of affinity. Personal attacks, of the sort that tort law had traditionally addressed through actions for defamation or invasion of privacy, are on the rise.

The stress points in defamation and privacy litigation are familiar. They include such doctrines as defamatory meaning, the distinction between fact and opinion, burdens of proving falsity, the distinction between public and private figures, fault standards, newsworthiness defenses, statutes of limitations, the single publication rule, liability for republication, the fair reports privilege, neutral reportage, and the immunities provided by § 230 of the Communications Decency Act, anti-SLAPP laws, and unmasking rules, as exemplars.


Erwin Chemerinsky,
Dean and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Rod Smolla, Dean and Professor of Law, Widener University Delaware Law School (author of Smolla on Defamation)

Neville Johnson, Founding Partner, Johnson & Johnson LLP

Moderator: Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, Managing Partner, Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham LLP

This activity has been approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of1.5 Hours of Participatory Credit (.5 in Legal Ethics)