Caveat Emptor

Upon hearing the Latin term caveat emptor, we likely think of the Uniform Commercial Code – of legal matters regarding commerce. These days – it turns out – ‘let the buyer beware’ is also very applicable to politics and the media.

Fox News isn’t only hiding behind the First Amendment; it is also saying that one should know better than to believe the lies it is peddling. Facebook sells its consumers little-fettered access to a hotline to spread gossip and false info and engage in braggadocio in exchange for their personal and then some information, which Facebook then sells to the highest bidder. Section 230 says caveat emptor applies to this exchange; that it applies to buyers who don’t know fish from fowl about what it is they are buying or what they are paying for it. No editors, no responsibility, required or implied; thank you, Communications Decency Act of 1996. For dollars, Facebook sells access – and your personal info – to foreign interests. Tens of thousands have died because Facebook can do these things.

The Republican Party says to social media, if you try to limit our right to spread falsehoods on Fox, or social media, we will haul your arse before one of Jim Jordan’s investigative committees and make your lives a living hell. Because, of course, the First Amendment and caveat emptor.

Moreover, the Party hauled the FBI Director and the Biden Administration before one or more of Jim Jordan’s investigative committees – where they were given holy hell for daring to look at the lies that Party and its auxiliaries were spreading under rights granted to them by the First Amendment and the principle of caveat emptor.

Not to be denied a shot, Judge Doughty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled that government efforts to limit the spread of lies and false information about COVID vaccines and treatment violated the First Amendment rights of those spreading lies and false information to do so. He did so at the request of Missouri (Eric Schmitt) and Louisiana. Violated the First, the judge says. The Appeals Court said that was likely in one or more instances. It seems that the principle of caveat emptor (an early version of blaming the victim) applies to voters – to the public.