Cadfael wrote:pjbogart wrote: The First Amendment does not protect your right to tell lies.
I was informed a few years ago that actually yes it does, as long as we are not costing anyone any money when we do it. I cannot remember the law I was quoted, but the beginning of the end was the Reagan administration and the rise of Fox News.
You're referring to The Fairness Doctrine, which required holders of FCC licenses to use their licenses responsibly and in a way that benefits the public. Remnants of the doctrine can still be seen today in news panels when they have a professor, a Democrat and a Republican commenting on something.
As for the First Amendment, it means whatever the courts say it means. And we've spent the last two centuries having those discussions. What does the Second Amendment mean? A complicated web of case law and statutes get molded into a "holding" which is considered "settled" and respected due to "stare decisis" until new facts emerge that make the old case law out-dated and it's "reversed."
Virtually all of the laws surrounding defamation are common law, not statutory, meaning that they're based upon judicial decisions as opposed to legislative acts. Common law/Case law can be changed almost at the drop of a hat, which is why political parties are so eager to pack the courts with like-minded judges.
As for the specifics of defamation, all that's needed is publication to a third party and damage. That can include something as minor as embarrassment. Unfortunately, case law has created a lot of tiers to libel and slander cases, including heightened requirements for public figures such as movie stars or politicians.
But there's nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees your right to tell lies.