Social movements use legal tools to create narratives. Those narratives support social agendas which certain movements leverage to mislead their followers and potential followers. In this Article, we examine one influential anti-vaccine organization, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), that uses its far-reaching platform to create false narratives around legal action. Again and again, this anti-vaccine group misrepresented both the legal and the factual meanings of court decisions, settlements, and other legal actions to create a narrative to galvanize its followers and influence newcomers. ICAN filed lawsuits that make anti-vaccine arguments—even when the legal framework did not fit doing so—and misrepresented the results. Most commonly in this category, while FOIA requests can only ask for documents and cannot ask queries, ICAN framed its frequent FOIA requests and subsequent lawsuits as if they were asking the agency to answer questions, rather than provide records. The group then presented the results to support one of its narratives—that vaccines cause autism—when the results did not, in fact, support such a narrative. This Article shows how legal tools advance disinformation and misinformation, creating a misleading, alternative reality.
Dorit R. Reiss and Viridiana Ordonez,
Law in the Service of Misinformation: How Anti-Vaccine Groups Use the Law to Help Spin a False Narrative,
Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y.