I social media, utilizzati da un politico locale per attività ufficiali, costituiscono “public forum”, soggetto alla libertà di parola ex Primo Emendamento (ennesima conferma)

Il Tribunale NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION cofnerma che la pagina Facebook di un consigliere circoscrizionale (Alderman) del 45° Ward di Chcago (v. l’elenco qui)  è public forum. Quindi soggetta alla lbiertà di parola costituzionale sicchè la censura da aprte deel Consigliere dei post sgraditi non è ammessa, tranne i strettissimi limiti ricosciuti dalla giurisprudenza.

Si tratta della decisione 10.02.2022, PETE CZOSNYKA, et al. v. JAMES GARDINER, Alderman of the 45th Ward of the City of Chicago,Case: 1:21-cv-03240  .

<<In his motion, Alderman Gardiner argues that plaintiffs have insufficiently alleged that hisFacebook Page is a public forum, especially because Facebook is a private entity. The SeventhCircuit has held that public forums are “locations or channels of communication that thegovernment opens for use by the public for expressive activity.” Surita v. Hyde, 665 F.3d 860, 869(7th Cir. 2011).

Indeed, federal courts have “extended public speech protection to less traditional,designated public forums.” One Wisconsin Now v. Kremer, 354 F. Supp. 3d 940, 953 (W.D. Wis. 2019).The Supreme Court discussed similar conceptions of less traditional public forums in Packingham,which addressed the issue of a lack of access to public forums in our “cyber age,” specifically socialmedia. See Packingham v. North Carolina, — U.S. —, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1736, 198 L. Ed. 2d 273 (2017).The Supreme Court provides guidance in determining whether a designated forum has beenintentionally created by the government, including (1) the “policy and practice of the government”and (2) “the nature of the property and its compatibility with expressive activity.” Cornelius v.NAACP Legal Defense & Educ. Fund. Inc., 473 U.S. 788, 802, 105 S.Ct. 3439, 87 L.Ed.2d 567 (1985).

Although the Seventh Circuit has yet to address this issue, other Circuit Courts have reliedon Cornelius’ expressive activity factor when examining whether social media platforms canconstitute a public forum. For example, the Fourth Circuit has held that expressive activity can bewhen one “intentionally open[s] the public comment section” and invites commentary, noticeablymarked by an interactive component of (say) a Facebook Page, “on [any] issue, request, criticism,complement or just …thoughts.” Davison v. Randall, 912 F.3d 666, 682 (4th Cir. 2019), asamended (Jan. 9, 2019).

Similarly, the Second Circuit has ruled in the context of Twitter (ananalogous social media platform), that blocking an account from certain users prevents expressiveCase: 1:21-cv-03240 Document #: 39 Filed: 02/10/22 Page 3 of 5 PageID #:1854conduct. See Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, 928 F.3d 226, 237 (2d Cir. 2019)(“The Account was intentionally opened for public discussion when the President, upon assumingoffice, repeatedly used the Account as an official vehicle for governance and made its interactivefeatures accessible to the public without limitation.”).

Thus, based on Packingham and the Cornelius factors, federal courts have concluded that whenthe government or a government official uses a social media account for official business, theinteractive portions of the social media platforms are public forums for First Amendment purposes.  See Davison, 912 F.3d at 682; Knight First Amendment Inst., 928 F.3d at 237; Felts v. Reed, 504 F.Supp.3d978, 985 (E.D. Mo. 2020); One Wisconsin, 354 F.Supp. 3d at 953. The Court agrees with thispersuasive authority.

Correspondingly, the fact that the government only has temporary control over theFacebook Page and that the government does not own the social media platform is not determinativeof whether the property is, in fact, sufficiently controlled by the government to make it a forum inrelation to the First Amendment. See Knight First Amendment Inst., 928 F.3d at 235. Specifically,control is not determined based on private or public ownership, but instead on the government’sexercise of control over the relevant aspects of the social media platformI>>.

Sentenza breve e dall’esito scontato.

Più interssante sarebbe chiedersi:

1) quando la pagina Fb del politico diventa solo privata e non più soggetta al 1° Emend.? Deve mancare di ogni e qualunque riferimento all’attività politico/amministrativa?

2) quale sarebbe da noi la valutazione giuridica di un caso analogo?

(notizia della sentenza e link alla stessa dal blog del prof. Eric Goldman)