Lies, Free Speech, and the Law

Hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
United States Supreme Court Building (Honolulu Civic Beat)

On April 8, 2022, the Knight Institute will host a symposium to explore how the law regulates or should regulate false and misleading speech. The symposium, titled "Lies, Free Speech, and the Law," is being overseen by the Institute’s Senior Visiting Research Scholar Genevieve Lakier and will take place at Columbia University.

The symposium will focus on five themes that examine the connections between lies, freedom of speech (construed broadly), and the law. These are: 1) the sociological and constitutional status of false or misleading speech; 2) defining the category of lies; 3) structural regulation and the problem of lies; 4) government lies; and 5) the deregulation of disclosure.

Due to university restrictions, only Columbia University students, faculty, and staff will be allowed to attend in person. We encourage everyone else to please join us online. All panels will be livestreamed. Please RSVP to receive links and updates about the program.

-- from the event page

Schedule (excluding coffee break and lunch for in-person participants)

9:15-9:45 a.m. EDT: Welcome

Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University 

Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Genevieve Lakier, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

9:45-11:00 a.m. EDT: Lies in historical context

Public discussion of the problem of lies in the United States tends to assume its novelty—that at no point in history was public agreement about factual truth so contested and uncertain. But is this true? What can we learn from historical battles over propaganda, falsehoods, and distrust of institutions? And if we are now experiencing an epistemic crisis, what are its sociological, political, and economic roots?  


RonNell Andersen Jones, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

Sam Lebovic, George Mason University

Sonja R. West, University of Georgia School of Law

John Fabian Witt, Yale Law School


Katy Glenn Bass, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. EDT: Doctrinal and definitional questions

What is the First Amendment status of false speech? More specifically, what rules can and should apply to different kinds of false speech (e.g., intentional lies, negligent untruths, wrong opinions) that the government might want to regulate? And what are the justifications for those rules? This panel will explore the thorny foundational doctrinal questions raised by the regulation of false speech.


Helen Norton, University of Colorado School of Law

Deborah Pearlstein, Cardozo School of Law

Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School

Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law


Carrie DeCell, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

2:00-3:20 p.m. EDTGovernment lies

Of all the kinds of lies that proliferate in the public sphere, perhaps the most dangerous to the functioning of democratic government are government lies. When the government lies, it threatens the ability of the people to perform their basic democratic function: to judge whether their elected representatives are representing their interests satisfactorily. How should First Amendment doctrine treat government lies?


Alan Chen, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Jamal Greene, Columbia Law School

Amanda Shanor, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School


Catherine J. Ross, George Washington University Law School

3:25-4:50 p.m. EDT: Sociological conditions for the production of truth

Lies do not occur in a vacuum. Particular institutional and cultural contexts can encourage and enable the production of falsehoods—or the production of truth. This panel will explore some of the sociological facts that encourage, or limit, the dissemination of untruths and the legal structures that enable them, as well as how law can support the production and dissemination of knowledge.


Adam M. Enders, University of Louisville

Heidi Kitrosser, University of Minnesota Law School

Artur Pericles Lima Monteiro, Yale Law School

Joseph Uscinski, University of Miami


Francesca Procaccini, Harvard Law School