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Tourist Libel — UK Libel Laws Threaten U.S. Free Speech?

The people who fought the Revolutionary War didn’t have much use for the British.

One thing that differentiates us from the British is the history of robust, uninhibited speech in the United States, protected by the First Amendment, which limits libel laws and makes people much freer to speak and publish here than across the pond.

Some celebrities and other targets of critical speech in an era of instant worldwide access to free speech have figured this out. They’ve sued for libel in Great Britain, which offers fewer free speech protections, then tried to bring overseas judgments to the United States and enforce them against American citizens and countries.

Now, Congress and some states are considering legislation to protect American citizens from overseas libel judgments which don’t comply with American law. That’s a good thing. As one member of the British Parliament said, “The practice of libel tourism — the willingness of British courts to allow wealthy foreigners who do not live here to attack publications that have no connection with Britain — is now an international scandal.” Americans should do what they can to stop it.

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