TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, October 9, 2020

Billauer on Addressing Anti-Vaccine Speech

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer has posted to SSRN Addressing the Demonstrable Effects of Anti-Vax FEAR (False, Endangering, and Reckless) Speech With Mandated Public-Health Education and Government Speech.  The abstract provides:

The 2018-2019 measles epidemic was the worst the world has seen in 30 years, manifesting in increased morbidity, mortality, hospitalizations, and public health expenditures. Public Health officials and legal scholars attribute the rise to the emergence of organized and well-funded anti-vax groups, who disseminate false, endangering, and reckless “propaganda” (what I call FEAR speech) with the objective of fostering vaccine resistance. We are on track for similar resistance should a CoVid vaccine become a reality. To date, quantitative demonstration of cause and effect data is wanting. This research fills that gap, the first such research to do so via a systematic methodology. Using a novel approach, I explore the role of anti-vax groups in five localities, comparing recent measles epidemics with earlier epidemics in the same localities, also establishing that pamphleteering and conferences/symposia have been the most effective dissemination means for targeting insular communities.

After evaluating several proposals to deal with the threat presented by these groups, including imposing tort liability and counter-speech, and concluding they are or will be ineffective, I propose a novel means of redress. After first determining that government speech would be be a viable approach, I advocate mandated educational curricula under this umbrella, targeted at the high school level and include a sample lesson plan outline.

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