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If a person falsely accuses a public figure of cheating at chess, then takes actions that costs the public figure monetary damage. If despite lack of evidence, the person has a bona fide belief that there was cheating. Could that ever qualify as Reckless disregard for the Truth?

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    Did Carlsen move to Missouri? :D
    – Davor
    Oct 4 at 9:54
  • @Davor no, it’s the cheater behind a user name trying to cover his bases. (jk!)
    – kisspuska
    Oct 4 at 15:30
  • Lawsuit filed today in Eastern district of Missouri so we may find out. Oct 21 at 4:16

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The fuller statement is reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statement.

The reckless disregard for truth element in defamation claims requires a plaintiff to show that the defendant had serious doubts about the accuracy of the material. St. Amant v. Thompson, 390 U.S. 727 (1968). A summary of the holding of this U.S. Supreme Court case explains its holding:

Recklessness requires a higher level of proof than ordinary negligence, so the reasonable-care standard is not appropriate. The defendant cannot avoid liability by testifying that he had a subjective belief that the statements were true. Instead, the jury must find through its consideration of all of the relevant evidence that the statements had been made in good faith. There was no evidence in this situation that St. Amant had entertained serious doubts about the veracity of Albin's accusations. The absence of an effort to check their facts did not rise to the level of actionable conduct.

This decision clarified the requirement of malice in defamation lawsuits regarding matters of public concern. It does not mean ill will but rather knowledge of the information's falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.

This means that if you just make something negative up without having any idea whether it is true or not, you can be guilty of defamation if it turns out to be false under U.S. law.

But, reliance on a third-party whom you believe to have a basis for their allegations and republishing the third-party's claim is not reckless disregard for the truth if you have any reason to believe that the third-party is credible. One doesn't have to have personal knowledge of the facts.

One can also have a reasonable factual basis for having a belief without knowing for sure that something is true from evidence that would be admissible in court or would definitely prove the allegation.

For example, if the chess player's moves were atypical of that chess player's previous plays and showed insights that player had not shown before, that would provide a basis for the statement that would overcome a reckless disregard claim.

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    This is good. What if there is admission by petitioner of past cheating? Under this standard it seems obvious that forever anyone can accuse the petitioner of cheating as freely as they want. Oct 3 at 17:15
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    @IKnowNothing Ultimately, it is a question of proof at trial with the facts presented at trial. It would certainly be harder for someone who has admitted to past cheating to prove defamation, and likewise proving damage to an already tarnished reputation would be harder.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 3 at 17:18
  • @ohwilleke not only would it be hard for the player who's admitted to cheating in the past, let's pretend the accuser is one of Chess's greatest players, ever. Such a player is unlikely to levy such public accusations without some evidence or sincerely felt hunch, that could certainly clear the bar and wouldn't be considered a "reckless disregard for the truth."
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 4 at 1:27
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    @BruceWayne: Since you are obviously talking about Magnus Carlsen, let's not read too much credibility into his accusations. He has specifically admitted that his opinion is based, in part, on a subjective impression of Hans Niemann's overall demeanor, and on Niemann's performance in the recent past, but those things are relatively weak forms of evidence (especially by FIDE's rather exacting standards). I doubt it rises to the level of libel, but that does not make it wise.
    – Kevin
    Oct 4 at 8:28
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    "This means that if you just make something negative up without having any idea whether it is true or not, you can be guilty of defamation if it turns out to be false under U.S. law." No, it doesn't mean that. In that case, you would know it's false. If I say "Elon Musk murdered ten women in Mexico" in a context where someone would understand that to mean there's a good reason for them to believe that's true, then the claim is false because I know there's no good reason for them to believe that it's true and what I said meant that there was such a reason. (See below comment for rest.) Oct 4 at 11:14
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the person has a bona fide belief that there was cheating. Could that ever qualify as Reckless disregard for the Truth?

The defendant's belief being bona fide negates reckless disregard of the truth. However, the allegation of good faith tends to be unpersuasive if the defendant does not offer credible elements on which to premise his false statement(s) of fact.

A defendant's allegation in the sense of "I just knew, don't ask me why" is likely to lead to a finding of reckless disregard of the truth because there is no way to prove that there was intuition or even a genuine belief.

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  • Would admission of past cheating be sufficient to forever have a bona fide belief that the petitioner is cheating? Oct 3 at 17:19
  • “The defendant's belief being bona fide negates reckless disregard of the truth” precisely. They are mutually exclusive as bona fide not only means one has a subjective belief of the veracity of an assertion, but that they exercised care reasonable to judge the veracity or falsity of the statement — considering all facts relevant.
    – kisspuska
    Oct 4 at 3:21
  • @IKnowNothing "Would admission of past cheating be sufficient to forever have a bona fide belief that the petitioner is cheating?" No. There is no case law establishing that. In the recent controversy between Carlsen and Niemann, the latter might prove actual malice by establishing that Carlsen had an ulterior motive for his defamatory statement(s). See Harte-Hanks Comms. Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 US 657, 668 (1989) ("it cannot be said that evidence concerning motive or care never bears any relation to the actual malice inquiry"). Oct 4 at 10:53

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