Rimozione di pubblicità (già concordata) da giornale e state action doctrine: la rimozione è legittima, mancando state action

La pubblicità politica su giornale di provincia, a seguito di contratto,  può essere rimossa qualora ci si accorga che viola la policy del gioranle stesso, senza che ciò violi il Prmo Emendamento.

Infatti il giornale non è Stato nè suo organo nè public forum.

Nel caso specifico un soggetto aveva concordato una pubblicità politica sul giornale The Astorian (dell’omonima piccola città dell’Oregon-USA) per due candidati a successive elezioni locali. La pubblicità venne  poi rimossa perchè il soggetto, pur avendo inizialmente accettato  di far inserire la precisazione che si trattava di <paid advetisment>, non aveva invece accettato la sucessiva richiesta di inserire anche il proprio nome e indirizzo o telefono (informazione richeista ddall’advertisment policy del giornale).

Si tratta di U.S. D.C. dell’Oregon, 8 marzo 2021, Case No. 3:20-cv-01865-SB, Plotkin c. “The Astorian” ed altri.

In Discussion-I.A, il giudice ricorda i principi generali sulla free speech clause del 1° Emendamento.

Poi in particolare così ragiona <<Defendants argue that The Astorian acted as a private entity—not a state actor—when it removed Plotkin’s advertisement from its publication, and therefore Plotkin’s allegations fail to meet the threshold required to prove that Defendants’ actions violated the First Amendment.

The Court agrees. 

Like the public access television channel in Halleck, here a newspaper does not perform a traditional or exclusive government function. See Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1929 (“The relevant function in this case is operation of public access channels on a cable system. That function has not traditionally and exclusively been performed by government.”); see also Brunette v. Humane Soc’y of Ventura Cnty., 294 F.3d 1205, 1214 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that a newspaper “was not liable as a state actor” under any of the plaintiff’s state action theories); Byers v. The Reg. Guard, No. CV 04-438-HU, 2004 WL 1615220, at *1 (D. Or. July 19, 2004) (dismissing civil rights claims against the Eugene Register Guard in light of “the absence of an allegation that the defendant acted under color of state law”).

On the contrary, a press free and independent from the government is a basic tenet of our democracy. See Miami Herald Publ’g Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, 248-56 (discussing the history  of the press and how the separation between the government and the press is necessary to allow for “the free expression of views”).

Thus, Defendants are not state actors and Plotkin’s constitutional claims have no merit. >>

Nemmeno funziona la difesa del public forum.

<Plotkin attempts to salvage his claims by arguing that the dispositive issue here is not whether The Astorian is a state actor, but whether The Astorian’s creation of a public forum prevents it from limiting Plotkin’s speech under the First Amendment. (Pl.’s Resp. at 2-3; Pl.’s *6 Surreply at 2.)

The Supreme Court has rejected that argument, holding that when a private entity “provides a forum for speech, the private entity is not ordinarily constrained by the First Amendment because the private entity is not a state actor.” Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1930 (rejecting the same argument Plotkin raises here, because “[t]hat analysis mistakenly ignores the threshold state-action question”); see also Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 997 (“YouTube may be a paradigmatic public square on the Internet, but it is ‘not transformed’ into a state actor solely by ‘provid[ing] a forum for speech'” (quoting Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1930, 1934)); Belknap v. Alphabet, Inc., — F. Supp. 3d —, 2020 WL 7049088, at *3 (D. Or. 2020) (“The Ninth Circuit, moreover, has explained that private entities who provide the public a forum for speech, including YouTube and Google, are not analogous to private entities who perform all the necessary municipal functions.”) (simplified). 

As a private entity, The Astorian is free to create a public forum subject to its own editorial discretion without running afoul of the First Amendment. See Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1930 (“The private entity may thus exercise editorial discretion over the speech and speakers in the forum.”); cf. Tornillo, 418 U.S. at 258 (holding that a privately-owned newspaper “is more than a passive receptacle or conduit for news, comment, and advertising” and “[t]he choice of material to go into a newspaper . . . constitute[s] the exercise of editorial control and judgment.”). Accordingly, Defendants did not violate Plotkin’s First Amendment 7 rights.>>

Pco sopra la corte aveva ricordato che <<A private entity may be a state actor when “the private entity performs a traditional, exclusive public function[.]” Id. (citation omitted). “It is ‘not enough’ that the relevant function is something that a government has ‘exercised . . . in the past, or still does’ or ‘that the function serves the public good or the public interest in some way.'” Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 997 (quoting Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1928-29).>> e che però <<The Supreme Court “has stressed that ‘very few’ functions fall into that category.” Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1929 (citing the examples of running elections or operating a company town) (citations omitted). Further, “[t]he Court has ruled that a variety of functions do not fall into that category, including, for example: running sports associations and leagues, administering insurance payments, operating nursing homes, providing special education, representing indigent criminal defendants, resolving private disputes, and supplying electricity.” Id. (citations omitted). *5 Further, “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.” Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1930.>>.

(notizia e link alla sentenza dal blog di Eric Goldman)