2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the US Supreme Court decisions in Times v Sullivan and 40th anniversary of Gertz v Welch. These two decisions by the US Supreme Court had an important legal impact in the United States on federal law pertaining to libel, specifically proving actual malice and who is defined as a public figure or public official. This article analyzes both Supreme Court decisions within the context of present day online social media libel controversies. It also analyzes three recent federal court rulings where judges had to issue decisions based on Sullivan and Gertz’s actual malice and public figure legal principles. The article concludes that both Sullivan and Gertz are still relevant to how other federal, American courts decide issues related to defamation published in social media.
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