Voting machine company settles defamation case with far-right news network News
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Voting machine company settles defamation case with far-right news network

Smartmatic, a voting technology company, reached a confidential settlement in a Washington DC court on Tuesday in its defamation lawsuit against the far-right One America News Network (OAN). The lawsuit was related to OAN’s dissemination of false claims about the 2020 US presidential election.

Appearing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Smartmatic’s original complaint included extensive video footage of the OAN televised reports. The company claimed that OAN spread disinformation, falsely alleging that Smartmatic’s equipment had flipped votes in favor of current US President Joe Biden during the election. Despite Smartmatic’s limited involvement in the 2020 election—operating only in Los Angeles County—OAN’s repeated broadcast of baseless claims profoundly impacted public perception.

In a redacted filing, Smartmatic brought forward evidence that OAN executives stole passwords to many email accounts belonging to Smartmatic employees and provided the information to then-campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, who worked for former President Donald Trump. Counsel for Smartmatic argued, “OANN acted to deliberately and maliciously injure Smartmatic and its goods and services out of hatred, ill-will or spite, and/or for improper motives.”

Defamation cases are challenging to win in the US, requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate that defendants knowingly published false information.

Because of the settlement, internal documents from OAN, which evaluated claims about the 2020 election, will not be released to the public. The voting machine company’s website stated, “[T]hese attacks don’t just hurt Smartmatic. They damage the credibility and integrity of all elections, and disparage the hard work of election officials, administrators and poll workers around the world.”

Smartmatic also argued that OAN produced 1,500 duplicate documents during the litigation process that should have been consolidated into a few hundred. OAN denied that the documents were duplicates and focused on how Smartmatic requested relief of $2 billion in damages, alleging the company did so without proper court documentation. OAN’s counsel challenged the defamation case as an attempt to silence a small, family-owned television channel. In the news outlet’s motion to dismiss evidence, OAN accused Smartmatic of a “cavalier attitude demonstrat[ing] a callous disregard of responsibilities counsel owe to the Court, OAN, and…exemplif[ing] bad faith and have worked to OAN’s harm and detriment.”

The Daily Beast reported in 2019 that OAN claimed to be available in 35 million homes, with an audience ranging from 150,000 to 500,000 viewers. However, Nielsen Media Research estimated its viewership to be about 14,000 that year. By July 2022, the network was available only to a few hundred thousand people who subscribed to smaller cable providers. Direct TV, the source of up to 90 percent of OANN’s revenues, stopped carrying the channel in 2022.

This settlement is part of a broader legal effort to hold media outlets accountable for spreading false information about the 2020 election. While the instant Smartmatic case is over, OAN still faces a separate defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion—another voting system provider—over its promotion of 2020 election coverage. Smartmatic still has a pending $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, the smaller conservative channel Newsmax, and several pro-Trump figures who also pushed disinformation about the election.