Lies, Free Speech, and the Law
Piotr Szyhalski

Lies, Free Speech, and the Law

A symposium exploring how the law regulates or should regulate false and misleading speech

Columbia University and online

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.

Symposium Announcement

Lies and the Law Blog Posts

Piotr Szyhalski: The making of the Lies and the Law art series

Lies and the Law Project

Event Recap


  • Jerome Greene Hall, Room 104, Columbia Law School, or Online 

    Columbia Law School

    435 W. 116th St.

    New York, NY 10027


    • Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University 
    • Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
    • Genevieve Lakier, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

    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

    Coffee break 

    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


    Boxed lunches will be available for pick-up outside of JGH 104. 

    Government 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

    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