At what point does the power to speak to the masses demand the responsibility of not lying?

I feel that protecting freedom of speech has gone too far in the event of mass media. I feel that there are controls necessary to ensure at least a bare minimum of honesty from figures and networks on the air. While individual speech is effectively sacrosanct, I feel a real argument needs to be made here - when your speech reaches and is respected by a large portion of the populace, should the responsibility of being truthful (and thus being not harmful to society) be legally enshrined? In other words, can or should there be any checks to things like this:

The fact is that basically everything in that FOX article is complete rubbish. Absolutely wrong. It’s all lies. If you want to debate that, this is not the thread, and you’re simply wrong. Basically, should a major news network be allowed to do this? Should they be allowed to go on the air and lie their asses off? I don’t think so. I think that with the power of providing serious news to the masses on a medium seen by many as respectable comes the responsibility of not lying. Anyone else think so?

And who gets to determine what are lies and what are simply interpretations with which one disagrees?

In the interest of trying to pursue an actually interesting discussion rather than descending into one more partisan “Is so/Is not” shit flinging, I am going to support the OP on one point:

Do not argue whether the claims of the OP are accurate. Whether or not Fox or MSNBC or whatever group you hate actually lies, take any arguments for or against the OP’s assertions of accuracy or of the accuracy of the quoted text to a different thread.

In this thread, stick to arguing whether there should be any level of censorship based on some (as yet undefined) basis of “Truth,” (or, at least, accuracy).

[ /Moderating ]

We do have such thing as “slander” and “libel” as well as other restrictions on public speech.

Fact is, much of Fox News is editorial opinion, not fact. And when they state actual facts incorrectly or misrepresent them, they lose credibility with people who actually care about those things. People who don’t care (i.e. people who actually watch Fox News) will continue not to care as they would rather be pandered to by Fox News than become educated on the topics themselves.

As tomndebb pointed out, we largely view the right to free speech as a check against the power of the sort of people who would be in a position to regulate it. The down side is you have to put up with free speech by people who seem misinformed or willfully stupid. But you also have the freedom to listen to someone else.

I agree. I think it’s important for the government to censor the news so that the stupid people aren’t led into wrong-thinking. Correct-thinking (we can’t call it "right-thinking) is to be nurtured and encouraged. Except, of course, when a president like GW Bush is in power or if the Republicans control both houses of Congress. Then we don’t want the government doing that.

At the starting point, I should think.

This is something I’d rather get into after we determine whether or not it’s okay in principle. Because this is pretty hard to answer.

The link in the OP starts with Even though I disagree with almost every word, I can’t see government intervention to prevent anyone from expressing an opinion, no matter how blatantly wrong. I sometimes like to say that I feel about the First Amendment the way some people feel about the Second. Erosion of the First Amendment is a far greater danger than someone in the media spouting nonsensical opinions.

Your argument about reaching large numbers of people might have had some currency 20 years ago. But at this point anybody’s opinion can reach millions. If what you have to say is worth listening to, people will find you (look at what happened to Nate Silver). And if people choose to listen to distortions or lies, that’s their choice. It’s not as if they have no other options. A Big Brother or North Korea type situation only happens when the government controls the press, and there are no opposing outlets. But as long as MSNBC, the Huffington Post, and this message board are free to exist alongside Fox News, then it’s up to the marketplace to decide which media survive.

Yeah, exactly. You always have a responsibility not to lie. The question is simply how much we can enforce this responsibility legally.

Libel and slander have the problem that you have to prove both that what you said was knowingly false–which is perfectly reasonable–but also that your intent was to harm–which is not.

As for the specter of 1984, I again remind people that we are not the only country on the planet. Other countries have licenses for billing yourself as news. They have a way for people to know that the facts you are proposing are true, instead of this inane idea that you can just listen to two biased sources and somehow figure out the truth from that. Just like they have found a way to deal with hate speech instead of just ignoring it and hoping it goes away. Just because you have this doesn’t mean that those in power can somehow convert their own opinions into facts.

Americans have this peculiar notion that freedom of speech is a moral value. It’s not. It’s a way of trying to achieve a moral value of a fairer society, and, sometimes, it can be counterproductive. Until we can have this conversation without people jumping straight to false dichotomies and shouting “fascism” (whether directly or indirectly), free speech isn’t really doing its job.

Do you believe that other freedoms – freedom of religion, freedom to marry, freedom from slavery, et cetera – likewise aren’t moral values?

I believe that all government communications outside of direct law enforcement actions (e.g. “We’ll send you away for life if you don’t confess!”) should be completely truthful under lawful penalties. This includes statements by Congress and the President. They seek election and should be fine with losing some of their freedom to ensure the public good.

I even would not be opposed to tax payer dollars going to establishing and running a non-biased news service, even though that’s fraught with danger.

However, each and every article by any blogger, opinion guy, editorial, news story, random guy on the street preaching for the end of times: Not one thing should be done about their speech, unless it causes direct and undue harm (calling “Fire!” in a theater). If I want to opine that our plant life would be better off without chlorophyll, then so be it. Nothing should happen to me or your friend at Fox News expressing his opinion, whether or not you think it’s the bee’s knees or the most horrifying opinion you’ve ever read in your entire life.

I don’t think people consider that it’s a “moral value” I think it’s more of a conflation of a freedom to do something with the freedom of doing that thing and also not having consequences for it. Celebrities, for instance, will say/do something stupid/outrageous and the general populace will reject them for it and they’ll go “BUT WE HAVE FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” like their ability to say something abrogates everyone else’s abilities to respond to their statement.

That assumes that “the public good” consists of lawmakers living if fear of jail if they happen to say the wrong thing. That’s a great recipe for having them say nothing at all.

It’s tricky, because the consequences are a really big part of the issue.

In abstract moral ideal? No, it’s not “okay” to lie.

But if (as I believe) the “cure is worse than the disease” and regulating public speech for truth would entail a worse form of tyranny than the lying itself ever could, then it’s an ugly evil that we simply have to accept.

It’s like porn. (Which I happen to enjoy, but many do not.) A ban would erode our liberties more than the porn itself possibly can.

Freedom must include the freedom to act wrongly. Otherwise, it has no meaning. North Korea offers everyone the freedom to recite loyalty oaths – but can you write Star Trek fan-fic, furry porn, or Harry/Weasley “slash” stories there? No? Then to hell with them!

No, in the law of defamation, intent is irrelevant. What you must prove is the harm, that is, to your reputation (not to your feelings). You need not even prove that the statement in question was knowingly false. A newspaper can be sued for libel just because a reporter accurately quoted somebody else’s false statement.

At what point in the entire history of, well…history has the public at large ever wanted the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from their own duly elected representatives?

Who knows? They’ll always say they do.

Perhaps. But if they say nothing, how would they be able to campaign and get re-elected?

I think you have it the wrong way around. Freedom of speech shouldn’t be a principle because we consider it a moral good to be allowed to lie or say dumb things, but rather because the vast preponderance of evidence suggests that there is no way to adjudicate “correct” speech in such a way that doesn’t potentially lead to terrible outcomes. Your statement seems to imply that if we agree it’s potentially okay to restrict harmful speech, then it’s just a matter of hammering out the details of how to do it. I assert that unless you can provide a convincing methodology for adjudicating speech the principle should stand.

That being said, if the vast majority of a population agrees without coercion that a certain type of speech is pernicious, I wouldn’t necessarily object to it being restricted. As I understand it, Germany imposes censorship on many forms of Nazism related speech, and I’m not prepared to condemn them for it.

I don’t think there is a realistic ‘other’ choice to what we have, but I admit I have exactly the same thoughts in the grocery check-out line, when I see that the Bushes had JFK killed and Batboy is on the loose…People get to read these rags, and vote…i wish we could come up with a ‘you can do one, or the other’.

You want to give the government the ability to punish people and media organizations for their truthiness? That’s a doubleplusgood idea.