By Justin Yang
Justin Yang is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
In a recent court case in Germany, a Syrian refugee attempted to seek an injunction against Facebook after fake news articles that were shared on the site used a selfie he took with German chancellor Angela Merkel to link him with terrorist attacks across Europe.  The court ruled in favor of Facebook, reasoning that because Facebook had not manipulated the content, they were therefore not legally responsible for the distribution. But this is surely just the first of many more legal fights that will take place across the world as the role of fake news grows in our society, and as we begin to ask: who should be responsible for the spread of this misinformation?
It is commonly accepted that fake news articles that were predominantly shared across social media platforms like Facebook fueled vast amounts of misinformation among the electorate during the 2016 U.S. election. An infamous example is the so-called Pizzagate conspiracy, which accused Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of being involved in a child sex ring based in the evidently non-existent basement of a pizza parlor.  Like many other fake news articles, this one made potentially libelous accusations about a public figure and added to the vast amounts of misinformation that could potentially have had influence on the voting population. A democratic society cannot function properly if voters are seriously misinformed, and libel is one of the few types of speech that the First Amendment does not protect. But since many fake news articles are written anonymously behind computer screens across the world, it appears to some people that the only way to solve this problem is by holding the online platforms that spread the misinformation legally accountable.