Fox News Lawsuit Reveals Rising Trend of Misinformation


Fox News has come under scrutiny for its accusations of fraud against Dominion Voting Systems. Photo: WyoFile via Flickr.

Throughout his presidency, former President Donald Trump echoed claims of “fake news,” which was ironic given his role in spreading misinformation surrounding the 2020 election. Immediately following the election, Trump attempted to challenge the results, claiming the election was fraudulent and encouraging his supporters to protest the outcome. Surprisingly, Fox News, a predominantly right-wing news network that previously supported Trump, opted not to corroborate his claims, particularly due to the disastrous impacts such a conception could have on the nation’s democracy. Further accusations of fraud were raised, specifically those targeted at the Dominion Voting System, which provided electronic voting for voters who did not have access to poll stations during the pandemic. Trump and his supporters raised three allegations of fraud: the voting system favored Democrats, was founded by Venezuelans and used a faulty algorithm. Despite its initial denial of Trump’s claims days before, Fox News retracted their statements and began promoting Trump’s narrative that these systems helped rig the election. These claims led Dominion to file a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against Fox News on the basis that they perpetuated the spread of this disinformation, despite knowing the story was baseless. 

All of Trump’s accusations against Dominion were false, a fact which Fox News was aware of. Dominion was not founded in Venezuela, but instead in a small town in Delaware. Furthermore, studies were conducted, proving it was mathematically impossible for the algorithm used by the electronic systems to be biased toward Joe Biden, despite Trump’s claims. Fox News’ centralized research department, which reviews news claims for factual accuracy, even concluded that Trump’s claims were blatantly false. The research team urged news anchors and administrators to avoid addressing Trump’s claims and prevent the spread of blatant misinformation.

Despite the warnings of its research department, Fox News still chose to present the claims to its wide range of vulnerable viewers. The company retracted its initial refusal to cover the claims following a loss of viewership and drop in stock prices. Fox News’ viewership is primarily Trump supporters and right-leaning Americans, so when it deviated from Trump’s position, its viewership and revenue immediately suffered. To counteract this, Fox News chose to display false and destructive claims accusing the electoral systems of being fraudulent. This decision was indicative of Fox News’ tenuous journalistic values and further discredited them as an unreliable news source.

The Dominion-Fox lawsuit represents a larger issue of political polarization and increasingly biased news in the United States. Following the 2020 election, 12 other cases regarding the spread of lies and conspiracy theories have also been filed, including a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting service, Smartmatic, also against Fox News.

The actions of Fox News and other media outlets reflect a greater concern for ratings and revenue than for journalistic integrity or the effects of misinformation.

By chasing engagement and viewership, Fox News has damaged America’s trust in democracy and the election process. Although defamation cases are often expensive and difficult to prove, it is important to hold both news organizations and individuals accountable for creating false and deceptive narratives. Trump’s claims in regard to the 2020 election have had glaringly negative and dangerous effects on the U.S., as illustrated by the Jan. 6 insurgence incited by his remarks. Fox News’ conduct is no different from the “fake news” Trump previously denounced. The justice system must continue to hold media outlets accountable and, through that, preserve journalistic integrity and the public’s trust in reporting.