NotesVolume 42, No. 2 (2019)

The Need for a Federal Anti-SLAPP Law in Today’s Digital Media Climate

Abstract

This Note lays out the judicial protections granted to the traditional press and identifies new threats to non-traditional presses through the rise of third-party litigation financing for lawsuits targeting negative reporting. Part I distinguishes between libel and privacy lawsuits, explaining why one approach—particularly in the digital age—can be more fruitful for plaintiffs. Part I also draws from recent Supreme Court precedent to contextualize current attitudes regarding speech and privacy. Part II analyzes two recent new media cases with troubling results: specifically, million-dollar costs at best, and bankruptcy at worst. While ample protections exist for the traditional press, in light of these lawsuits, it is worth considering what more could and should be done to protect media outlets, especially the non-traditional presses. Part II also examines the chilling effect of potential billionaire-backed lawsuits. Because of threats from third-party litigation financiers and because judicial protections are intended for traditional presses, new publishers are left in a precarious position; Part III advocates for a federal anti-SLAPP law as a potential solution.