Free Speech and the Legal Prohibition of Fake News

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Abstract
Western European liberal democracies have recently enacted laws that prohibit the diffusion of fake news on social media. Yet, many consider that such laws are incompatible with freedom of expression. In this paper, I argue that democratic governments have strong pro tanto reasons to prohibit fake news, and that doing so is compatible with free speech. First, I show that fake news disrupts a mutually beneficial form of epistemic dependence in which members of the public are engaged with journalists. Second, I contend that laws against fake news enhance rather than thwart personal autonomy. If these suggestions are plausible, then the same considerations about truth and autonomy that underpin the value of free speech give us reasons to prohibit fake news.
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BROFSA-5
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First archival date: 2021-05-24
Latest version: 2 (2021-05-25)
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2021-05-24

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