This statute was unanimously passed by the US Congress in 2010 in response to libel tourism concerns, and in particular in response to UK lawsuits against an American author whose book claimed to document Saudi Arabian financing of terrorism. It partially reflects pre-existing judicial doctrines regarding enforceability of foreign judgments that conflict with the US First Amendment. The SPEECH Act has not been much litigated. The most important case to date is the 2017 EFF v. Global Equity.
The Act precludes enforcement of non-US defamation judgments unless the party seeking enforcement can make some very difficult legal showings:
- That the foreign court applied protections consistent with the US First Amendment and relevant state law
- That even with US law protections, defendant would have lost the case
- That the judgment is consistent with CDA 230
- That the court's exercise of jurisdiction was consistent with US due process requirements
The statute defines covered defamation claims broadly, to include "libel, slander, or similar claim[s] alleging that forms of speech are false, have caused damage to reputation or emotional distress, have presented any person in a false light, or have resulted in criticism, dishonor, or condemnation of any person." Following this definition, the Act may apply to claims that are rooted in privacy or other doctrines under the law of their home forums.