Untangling Defamation Law: Guideposts for Reform

Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, University of Florida Levin College of Law


This article, which is based on a keynote address given at the 2023 Missouri Law Review Symposium, addresses the past and predicted future of defamation law in hopes of galvanizing needed reforms. As a necessary backdrop, this article explains why today’s defamation law remains so complex, tracks reforms over the last half-century, and explains why the common law of defamation has not adapted adequately to the challenges posed by cheap speech in the digital era. The article then turns to assessing the complaints of defamation law’s most prominent would-be reformers and finds them to rest on an incomplete understanding of how defamation law’s complex pieces contribute to the whole. Finally, after identifying some important barriers to defamation law reform, the article provides guideposts for the reform process.