L’account Twitter di un dipartimnto universitario è limited public forum e non può bloccare post non gradevoli

Un docente universitario mnoto per posizin pro colonialismo posta un tweet equivoco su una pagina web interattiva creata dal by the University of Oregon’s Division of Equity and Inclusion.

Il manager lo blocca,.

M;a per il tribuinale dell’oregon Case 3:22-cv-01181-HZ   del 26.01.2023, Gilley v. Stabin , l’accont unviersitario è limited public forum e deve garantire il free speech. Il blocco eventuale deve essere “reasonable and viewpoint-neutral.”

<<Reviewing the three factors, the Court concludes that @UOEquity is a limited public
forum. First, the University did adopt guidelines governing posting on social media. The
pertinent part of the guidelines was posted online for anyone to view, and was also part of a
larger internal document. Larson Decl. I ¶¶ 3-5, Ex. 1 at 2; Larson Decl. II ¶¶ 5-7, Ex. 1 at 8-9.
The guidelines provide that comments within certain categories, including off-topic posts, can be
deleted, and that users who violate the guidelines can be blocked. Id. Plaintiff points out that
these guidelines appear more easily changed than a formal policy and that they have in fact been
changed since he filed suit. Pl. Supp. Br. 3, ECF 43. Plaintiff is correct that the guidelines have
been regularly altered; Defendants have acknowledged as much. Larson Decl. III ¶¶ 8-9, Exs. 2-
Case 3:22-cv-01181-HZ Document 57 Filed 01/26/23 Page 22 of 3623 – OPINION & ORDER
3 (versions of internal guidelines from 2019 and February 2021); Larson Decl. II ¶¶ 8-12, Exs. 1-
2 (versions of internal guidelines from October 2021 and October 2022). However, all of these
versions of the guidelines use almost identical wording in listing the categories of posts that can
be blocked or deleted. Larson Decl. II Ex. 1 at 8-9, Ex. 2 at 9-10; Larson Decl. III Ex. 2 at 8-9,
Ex. 3 at 3-4.
Plaintiff points to Kimsey v. City of Sammamish, 574 F. Supp. 3d 911, 919-920 (W.D.
Wash. 2021). Pl. Post-Hearing Mem. 5. In Kimsey, the district court held that a city’s Facebook
page was a designated public forum, in part because the city did not require prior approval before
allowing comments on the page. 574 F. Supp. 3d at 918, 920. The Court respectfully disagrees
with this analysis. In Garnier, the Ninth Circuit focused on whether the government defendants
had “established any rules of etiquette or decorum regulating how the public was to interact with
their social media account.” 41 F.4th at 1165. Garnier did not suggest that requiring prior
approval for comments was necessary to create a limited public forum. It also recognized that
“analogies between physical public fora and the virtual public fora of the present are sometimes
imperfect, and courts applying First Amendment protections to virtual spaces must be mindful of
the nuances of how those online fora function in practice.” Id. at 1185. This is one such nuance.
The Court doubts that requiring prior approval for every post on @UOEquity is a feasible
method of content restriction, and Plaintiff points to no evidence suggesting that it is.
Second, the Court has limited information on the extent to which the guidelines are
generally enforced. At the hearing, Plaintiff argued that @UOEquity is a designated public
forum because the University has failed to consistently enforce the social media guidelines.
There is some evidence to support this contention. For instance, while Plaintiff was blocked for
posting “all men are created equal” in response to the Racism Interruptor prompt, another Twitter user was not blocked for posting “all men are created equal” in response to the same
prompt several days later. Larson Decl. III ¶¶ 6-7, Ex. 1 at 4. Only three users have been blocked
since 2017. Id. ¶ 5. This could point to limited enforcement or to a paucity of posts that violate
the guidelines. Defendant stabin testified at the hearing that @UOEquity was a relatively lowtraffic account. This is supported by the data: since 2017, there have been a combined 2,558
replies and retweets on the account by other users. Larson Decl. III ¶ 4. In an email, Defendant
stated that she rarely blocked people and barely knew how. Kolde Second Supp. Decl. Ex. 4.
However, Plaintiff has not provided enough evidence of users who arguably should have been
blocked under the guidelines. The Court does not know why the other two blocked users were
blocked. The Court does not have enough evidence to conclude that the University is not
consistently following the guidelines in managing the @UOEquity account. Mindful that the
Supreme Court has required an affirmative act to create a designated public forum, the Court
declines to conclude on the evidence before it that the University has failed in enforcing the
social media guidelines to a degree that justifies finding such an affirmative act.
Third, a Twitter page is a forum designed for expressive activities. Garnier, 41 F.4th
1178 (“Social media websites—Facebook and Twitter in particular—are fora inherently
compatible with expressive activity.”). Defendant stabin testified at the hearing that the Racism
Interruptor prompts she posted were intended to serve as tools for individuals to use when they
encountered discrimination in their daily lives, rather than to promote discussion on the Twitter
page as such. Ultimately, however, the expressive activity on the Twitter page is not “incidental”
to its operations, unlike ads on metro buses whose primary function from the government’s
perspective is to generate revenue. Seattle Mideast Awareness, 781 F.3d at 497.
This case falls between Garnier and Seattle Mideast Awareness, and the Court concludes
that @UOEquity is a limited public forum. The University adopted and published guidelines
restricting the content that can be posted on the page and permitting administrators to block users
who violate them. Those guidelines have been reinforced to faculty and staff who manage the accounts.

The degree of enforcement appears less rigorous than in Seattle Mideast Awareness, but the nature of the forum is different, and the Court declines to find on the record before it that the University has abdicated responsibility for enforcement.

The Court concludes that the University did not affirmatively open @UOEquity as a designated public forum.

Therefore, any restrictions on speech in @UOEquity must be reasonable and viewpoint-neutral. Hopper, 241 F.3d at 1075. 

The Court proceeds to evaluate the likelihood of success on Plaintiff’s claims for
relief against this standard>>

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

Primo Emendamento e censura da parte di Google-Youtube

Un tribunale dell’Oregon decide la lite inerente una presunta violazione del diritto di parola (coperto dal Primo Emendamento) in relazione a post di commento ad articoli apparsi su Breitbart News: si tratterebbe di violazione ad opera di Google-Youtube (è citata pure Alphabet, la holding).

L’istante allegava la violazione del diritto di parola e poi pure del safe harbour ex § 230 CDA.

Sul secondo punto la corte rigetta in limine dato che non è stata prospettata alcuna violazione della citata normativa, trattandosi di safe harbour.

Sul primo punto, ribadisce l’orientamento prevalente per cui un forum privato (per quanto importante, aggiungo io) non costituisce <ambiente statale> (non vale “State action”) e per questo non è soggetto al PRIMO EMENDAMENTO. Tale  disposizione costituzionale, infatti, riguarda solo l’azione dello Stato.

<<Thus, fundamental to any First Amendment claim is the presence of state action …  Neither Alphabet, nor its subsidiaries, Google and YouTube, are state actors. See Prager Univ., 951 F.3d at 996 (noting that the defendants, YouTube and Google, operated their platforms without any state involvement). Google and YouTube do provide the public with a forum for speech, but that does not make them state actors>>.

Eì vero che talora le corti hanno affermato che <<a private entity was a state actor for First Amendment purposes, most notably when a private entity engaged in functions typically reserved exclusively to state or municipal government. See, e.g., Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946). Belknap’s Complaint makes no allegations that Defendants’ are engaging in municipal functions. 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.”>>.

La sentenza si appoggia abbondantemente al precedente di quest’anno Prager Univ. v. Google LLC (decisione di appello del 9 circuito) in cui il tema è analizzato con un certo dettaglio.

Purtroppo non è chiaro il contesto fattuale : non è chiaro se si trattasse di censura di commenti a video (cita Youtube) , magari su un canale o account di Breitbart, o di commenti ad articoli scritti (parla di articles).

Non si può quindi capire quale sia l’importanza della piattaforma portatrice dei post e dunque nemmeno se sia possibile un’applicazione analogica di tale protezione.

Si tratta di Distretto dell’Oregon  01.12.2020, Belknap c. Alphabet-Google-Youtube, caso n° 3:20-cv-1989-SI .

(notizia tratta dal blog di Eric Goldman)