HomePoliticsVoting equipment company Smartmatic settles defamation lawsuit with far-right network

Voting equipment company Smartmatic settles defamation lawsuit with far-right network

Voting equipment company Smartmatic has agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit with the far-right One America News Network (OAN) over lies broadcast on the network about the 2020 election.

Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic, confirmed the case had been settled but said the details were confidential. Lawyers for Smartmatic and OAN told a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday that they agreed to dismiss the case, which Smartmatic filed in 2021.

Smartmatic sued OAN in November 2021, saying the relatively small company was a victim of OAN’s “decision to grow its viewership and influence by spreading disinformation.” Smartmatic was only involved in the 2020 election in a single US county, Los Angeles, but OAN repeatedly broadcast false claims that its equipment had flipped the election for Biden. Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell played key roles in pushing the outlandish claims.

In the US, defamation cases are difficult to win, with plaintiffs having to set a high bar to prove that defendants knew the information was false and published it anyway. The settlement comes months after OAN lawyers apparently accidentally turned over documents showing that the network had obtained a spreadsheet containing the passwords of Smartmatic employees. It’s not clear whether the passwords were authentic, but Smartmatic’s lawyers said in court filings that the network may have committed a crime.

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The settlement also means that internal OAN documents showing how the network weighed and evaluated claims about the 2020 election will not be made public. Before voting equipment company Dominion reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion last year, internal documents like this provided compelling evidence that key employees at Fox knew election claims were false.

The settlement is the latest development in a series of defamation lawsuits seeking to hold the media accountable for spreading false information about the 2020 election. In 2022, OAN settled a defamation lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two Atlanta election workers falsely alleged to have been involved in stealing the election. The network published an on-air report saying there was “no widespread voter fraud” by election officials in Georgia and clarifying that Freeman and Moss “did not engage in voter fraud or criminal misconduct.”

Smartmatic still has an ongoing $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox.

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Earlier this month, a Delaware judge set a September trial date for Smartmatic’s defamation lawsuit against Newsmax. Both Smartmatic and Dominion also have pending defamation cases against Powell, Giuliani and Mike Lindell.

Lawyers are watching the cases closely to see whether defamation law can be an effective tool to combat misinformation.

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