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Smartmatic sues Newsmax and One America News Network, alleging defamation


The legal battle against disinformation from right-wing media is expanding.

Smartmatic, an election technology company that has been the target of pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential race, sued Newsmax and One America News Network Wednesday for defamation and demanded that the conservative cable networks face jury trial for spreading untruths about the company.

The new lawsuits add to a growing number of lawsuits by Smartmatic and another election technology provider, Dominion, which has been mired in the same conspiracy theories. In February, Smartmatic sued Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and several Fox anchors on similar grounds, as well as two of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“We hold them accountable for what they tell their audienceJ. Erik Connolly, an attorney for Smartmatic, said in an interview.

Dominion has sued Fox, Newsmax, One America News, Ms. Powell, Mr. Giuliani and Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow.

Smartmatic and Dominion were both accused by pro-Trump forces, without any evidence, of manipulating voting figures in key states to prevent the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. the 2020 results. Those conspiracies have only increased in the year since Mr. Biden won, as leading Republican officials and media personalities continued to cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s defeat.

The lawsuits are a tactic used to address a pressing social issue: how to curb the misinformation that has poured out in abundance from right-wing news and opinion channels.

For Newsmax and One America News — relatively young outlets that have nurtured small but devoted followings — the stakes can be existential. Unlike Fox, which is hugely profitable, Newsmax and One America News are poorly positioned to absorb significant financial penalties.

Newsmax said in a statement Wednesday that it has “accurately reported on allegations made by well-known public figures, including the president, his advisers and members of Congress, as well as reporting on Smartmatic’s defense claims.” The company called the Smartmatic suit “a clear attempt to crush the rights of a free press.” One America News did not immediately return a request for comment.

In the two lawsuits — filed against Newsmax in Delaware and against One America News in Washington, DC — Smartmatic says the networks aired dozens of reports accusing the company of participating in a conspiracy to manipulate the election against Mr. Trump. Those allegations came even as Smartmatic provided its services only in Los Angeles County, and nowhere else, in the 2020 election.

In its lawsuit against Newsmax, Smartmatic says the news organization campaigned to suck viewers away from its bigger rival Fox. Smartmatic also accuses One America News of knowingly publishing misinformation after the company warned it to stop.

Legal experts said the lawsuits could put both organizations in a difficult position.

“They’re both powerful lawsuits,” said Floyd Abrams, a renowned First Amendment attorney. “I think it’s unlikely that the defendants will make strong arguments that what they were carrying was correct.”

Still, defamation cases are hard to prove and, as in the Fox case, Smartmatic will likely have to show that the two upstart networks acted maliciously and recklessly by making false statements that they knew were false.

Fox has filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that Mr Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud were matters of significant public concern and were handled fairly by cable channels Fox News and Fox Business. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the outcome of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox wrote in his response. Oral arguments on the motion took place in August, but a judge has not yet ruled.

Mr. Connolly, Smartmatic’s attorney, said Newsmax and One America News “had no evidence to support anything they said. Their guests gave them no proof of what they said. And you couple that with the piles of publicly available information that contradicts what is being said.

One America News and Newsmax saw their ranks rise with conservatives after last year’s election, while Fox News’ ratings plummeted after it became the first major network to predict Mr. Biden had won the Arizona election. But in March a study conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that Fox News had a much wider reach than Republicans and American viewers in general.

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