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With Dominion's defamation suit against Lindell et al, I got to thinking that companies making vaccines should have similar standing to sue prominent disseminators of vaccine misinformation. They can demonstrate that vaccine hesitancy is directly harming their bottom line.

Would they (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J) have standing in the US to pursue such a suit? If so, why don't they? Many of the misinformation claims are easily proven false.

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    It may very well be a strategic decision that such suits would do more harm than good. Conspiracy theorists already love to say things like "Big Pharma is trying to silence me", just think how much fun they'd have if it were really true. Aug 31 at 21:46
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    "Many of the misinformation claims are easily proven false." Not sure exactly what "falsehoods" you are referring to, but these pharmaceutical companies will have a hard time proving damages. The fact that vaccine believers rushed to get injected asap defeats the notion that the pharmaceuticals' reputation has been harmed by anti-vaxxers' statements of fact. Aug 31 at 22:02
  • @IñakiViggers: Surely even if the company can only show that, say, 10% of potential customers were deterred by the allegedly false statements, that's still a lot of harm and a large amount of damages? The fact that some people didn't believe the statements doesn't remove the harm resulting from those who did. Aug 31 at 22:34
  • @NateEldredge "that's still a lot of harm and a large amount of damages" In the context of the covid mess, the separation between believers and skeptics was largely consolidated long before it was known which companies would manage to push in the market their vaccine. This means that (1) the remaining portion of undecided people is too small, and (2) allocating how much of the ensuing "defamation" affected each company is too speculative. Also in depicting a generalized approval of vaccines, the mainstream media hindered the pharmaceuticals' chances to prove that their reputation was harmed. Aug 31 at 23:00
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In the US the first amendment protections given to free expression make defamation claims significantly harder to pursue than in some other countries. o-called 'product defamation" claims are generally harder yet.

In the case of Dominion Voting Systems some of those sued seem to have made fairly specific allegations, which, if true, would involve probably criminal wrong doing. And please note that none of those suits have yet had a trial on the merits, to the best of my knowledge. We don't know if the statements complained of will be held to be defamatory or protected.

Claims that a vaccine is not as safe as it should be, or the regulators were too quick to approve it, are harder to frame as defamatory of the drug companies. Since the government contracted in advance for enough vaccine to give a dose to everyone in the US (as I understand it) damages would be hard to prove.

And there would be a risk of a PR backlash.

It is not as if any of these companies has tried to file a suit and had it dismissed. They have not chosen to file, for which there could be many reasons.

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  • Also, high-profile politician have generally avoided making clear claims that vaccines don't work. It was more wink-wink that everyone is free to choose etc. Possibly the only guy with plenty of money (i.e. worth suing) who has made such more clear claims is a former Pfizer exec.
    – Fizz
    Sep 1 at 3:17
  • IIRC the US standard is also that there must be proven malicious intent. A defense of idiocy, i.e. not really understanding the science/data/papers, might actually work...
    – Fizz
    Sep 1 at 3:27
  • There was a recent case in the media with a plastic surgeon winning such a case against a former patient, but the statements were at the level of "common man", i.e. that the patient was offered remedial surgery but refused it etc. (The patient claimed they weren't) Oh, and it was in Canada... cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/…
    – Fizz
    Sep 1 at 3:30
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    @Fizz I think you may be recalling the unfortunately named "actual malice" standard. This in fact says nothing about intent, it demands proof that statements were either knowingly false, or made in reckless disregard of possible falsity. It only applies to public officials and public figures as plaintiffs. Sep 1 at 7:54

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