La SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, 25.06.2021, Brock c. Facebook e altri, caso 1:20-cv-07513-LJL , decide un’azione basata su presunta violazione del Primo Emendamento (free speech verso lo Stato) e di altre disposizioni, a seguito di reiterate censure di post da parte di Facebook (Fb)
Qui interessa la -ormai annosa- questione del se il social network sia sottoposto al Primo Emendamento (nei confronti dei suoi utenti).
La sentenza segue l’orientameno dominante per cui non lo è, non potendo la sua condotta essere qualificdata come state action. Non ci sono analisi particolarmente interssanti.
Resta curioso che la giurisprudenza continua a non ammettere un’intepretazione analogico/evolutiva del tenore letterale del Primo Emendamento, nonostante il rischio di sua violazione oggi non provenga più dallo Stato ma da Poteri Privati.
La corte ricorda che <<The actions of a private corporation only constitute stateaction “(i) when the private entity performs a traditional, exclusive public function; (ii) when the government compels the private entity to take a particular action or (iii) when the government acts jointly with the privateentity.” Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp. v. Halleck, 139 S. Ct. 1921, 1928 (2019) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Notably, “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.” Id.at 1930. Therefore, private companies which maintain public online forums may “exercise editorial discretion over the speech and speakersin [such] forum[s].” Id.>>
Ricorda poi che, sebbene il 2° circuito non abbia affrontato <<the question of whether a social media provider is a state actor for First Amendment purposes, other circuits that have confronted the issue have unanimously held platforms like Facebook are not state actors. For example, the D.C.Circuit recently held that Facebook, Google, Twitter,and Apple were not state actors; the court then affirmed the dismissal of First Amendment claims against the companies. Freedom Watch, Inc. v. Google Inc., 816 F. App’x 497, 499(D.C. Cir. 2020)(notingthe mere provision of “an important forum for speech” did not transform online platforms into state actors). In a similar case involving YouTube, the Ninth Circuit held that “the state action doctrine preclude[d] constitutional scrutinyof YouTube’s content moderation pursuant to its Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.” Prager Univ.v. Google LLC, 951 F.3d 991, 999 (9th Cir.2020). Othercourts throughout the country have also declined to treat Facebook as a state actor and have upheld the company’s ability to remove content. See, e.g., Ebeid v. Facebook, Inc., 2019 WL 2059662 at *6 (N.D. Cal. May 9, 2019); Zimmerman v. Facebook, Inc., 2020 WL 5877863 at *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 2, 2020).>>
Per l’attore, lo status di “state actor” è “immaterial” <<because Facebook is performing a function “traditionally” performed by the government.Dkt. No. 33 ¶¶ 8–12. The relevant function that Facebook providesis an online platform for speech. Plaintiff also analogizes Facebook’s provision of an online messaging service to the government’s traditional provision of mail services through the United States Postal Service. Id.¶¶ 10–11>>.
Ma ciò non basta: <<[i]t 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.’” Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 998 (quotingHalleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1928–29). The government must have performed the function in question exclusively as well. Halleck, 139 S. Ct. at 1929. Facilitating the exchange of communicationor hosting a platformfor discussionare not activities “that onlygovernmental entities have traditionally performed.” Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 998 (quotingHalleck, 139 S.Ct. at 1930). Thus, Plaintiff may not “avoid the state action question” by claiming that Facebook is serving a public function. Id. at99>>.
Poi c’è l’altro argomento: che FB costituisce una “new town square”.
Ma anche questo è stato rigettato in passato da altre corti (v. spt. Prager University) , cui il giudice si adegua: <<see e.g.,Zimmerman, 2020 WL 5877863,at *2 (holdingthe operation of a “digital town square” didnot make Facebook a state actor).The Supreme Court held in Marsh v. State of Alabama, 326 U.S. 501, 506 (1946)that citizens in a company–owned town were guaranteed constitutional protections against the deprivation of their First Amendment rights by the company, but courts have refused to extend Marsh’sholding to social media cases. See, e.g.,Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 998 (noting Marsh was “unequivocally confined. . . to the unique and rare context of company town[s] and other situations where the private actor perform[s] the full spectrum of municipal powers”) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Finally, Facebook’s status as a publicly held company does not make the company a state actor for the purposes of constitutional violations. See Freedom Watch, 816 F. App’x at 499 (dismissing First Amendment claims against Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, which are all publicly traded companies)>>.
E’ curioso che l’attore avesse citato pure Zuckerberg e altri dirigenti di Fb personalmente. La relativa domanda è stata però rigettata <<in the absence of anyallegations connecting Zuckerberg or Sandberg to Plaintiff’s claims>>