Altro rigetto di domanda per presunta violazione del Primo Emendamento a seguito di blocco di account Facebook e Twitter

Implacabile la giurisprudenza USA nel continuare ad affermare che la protezione costituzionale del diritto di parola è concessa solo verso lo Stato o organi pubblici,  non verso privati (quali sono i pur giganteschi social media).

Ora è la volta del Distretto Nord della California a firma del giudice Breyer con provv. 5 maggio 2022, Case 3:22-cv-00737-CRB , Hart. c. Facebook e altri , a seguito di blocco dell’account per ripetuta disinformazione soprattutto in tema di covid-19.

Misinformazione che violava i terms of service (Facebook:  forbade users from sharing “anything . . . [t]hat is unlawful, misleading, discriminatory, or fraudulent.”; Twitter: prohibits using “Twitter’s services to share false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm.”).

In particolare sono rigettate le due modalità prospettate dall’attore, evidentemente per superare il dettato costituzionale e la sua interpretazione corrente. Infatti non ricorre nè la cd joint action (tra privato e potere pubblico; v. nota 4 << It is still more difficult to understand how general legislative debates, such as those surrounding Section 230, could provide a President with coercive power over a private company sufficient to confer state action>>) nè la government coercicion, pp. 9-15.

Allo scopo, l’attore aveva citato pure il presidente Biden e il responsabile sanitario Murphy in proprio.  In particolare aveva allegato che <<Biden and Murthy “directed” social media platforms to make four changes: (1) to “measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platform”; (2) to “create a robust enforcement strategy that bridges their properties and provides transparency about the rules”; (3) to “take faster action against harmful posts” because “information travels quite quickly on social media platforms”; and (4) to “promote quality information in their feed algorithm.” Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Hart also alleges that Biden directed Murthy to create a 22-page advisory with “instructions on how social media companies should remove posts with which Murthy and Biden disagree.” Id. ¶ 18.  Finally, Hart alleges that Biden “threatened” social media companies who do not comply by “publicly shaming and humiliating them, stating, ‘They’re killing people”)>>.

Da noi per fortuna l’art. 2 Cost. si applica pacificamente pure verso i soggetti privati.

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

Altra conferma (d’appello) che Facebook non è “state actor” e che dunque l’arbitraria rimozione di post non viola il Primo Emendamento

SEcondo l’orientamento dominante il diritto di parola non ha la tutela costituzionale del 1 Emendamento quando la sua inibizione provenga da soggetto privato, quale il filtraggio operato dalle piattaforme digitali.

A tale orientameno si adegua l’Appello del secondo circuito 27.04.2022, Brock v. Zuckerberg e altri, 21-1796-cv .

Motivazione leggera e non particolarmente interessante.

Di fronte alla duplice causa petendi <<two principal arguments as to why the removal of his Facebook posts constituted state action: (1) Facebook was a publicly held company [sic!]; and (2) Facebook was the equivalent of a “public square” or “public forum.” >>, la Corte rigetta.

In particolare osserva:

<< Although Brock alleged some facts, construed liberally, as to his first argument, it clearly fails as a matter of law.   “The management of a corporation is not a public function; and a state’s permission for a corporation to organize itself in a particular manner is not the delegation of governmental authority.” Cranley v. Nat’l Life Ins. Co. of Vt., 318 F.3d 105, 112 (2d Cir. 2003).

As to Brock’s assertion that Facebook is a public square, he failed to make any non-conclusory factual allegations to support that claim.   Instead, the amended complaint merely repeats the legal conclusion that Facebook is a public forum and public square. While we construe pro se complaints liberally, legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations,” Ruston v. Town Bd. for Town of Skaneateles, 610 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). None of Brock’s conclusory allegations “nudged” his claims “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
In his opposition to the motion to dismiss, Brock conclusorily asserted for
the first time that Facebook is a state actor because it performs the traditional public function of delivering mail. Brock did not raise this argument on appeal or challenge the district court’s conclusion that he cannot “avoid the state action
question” by analogizing “Facebook’s provision of an online messaging service to

the government’s traditional provision of mail services through the United States
Postal Service,” App’x at 188–89.

It is well settled in the Second Circuit “that issues not discussed in an appellate brief will normally be deemed abandoned.” Beatty v. United States, 293 F.3d 627, 632 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 596 n.3 (2d Cir. 2000) (“When a litigant – including a pro se litigant – raises an issue before the district court but does not raise it on appeal, the issue is abandoned.”).  And although “[a]n abandoned claim may nevertheless be considered if manifest injustice would otherwise result,” Ocean Ships, Inc. v. Stiles, 315 F.3d 111, 117 (2d Cir. 2002), such circumstances are not present here; Brock’s complaint and opposition below is devoid of any facts that would support a conclusion that Facebook has assumed a heretofore exclusively public function>>.

E’ assorbita la censura sul § 230 CDA ,.

E’ noto che da noi, invece, la tutela dei diritti fondamentali ex art. 2 Cost. opera anche nelle relazioni tra soggetti privati.

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

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)

Post offensivi/osceni sui social e diritto di parola: protezione ridotta, se non assente

Il Tribunale del Colorado , 31.1.2022, Case 1:20-cv-01977-PAB-KMT, Sgaggio c. De Young e altri, decide sulla domanda presentata da un utente Facebook contro il Dipartimento di Polizia di Woodland Park , che lo aveva bannato dalla pagina Facebook del dipartimenot stesso per post ingiuriosi.

L’azione era basata sul Primo Emednamento (libertà di parola).

Si trattava dunque certo di State Actor.  Però i post erano offensivi o addirittura osceni: e per essi la tutela del Diritto di Parola è ridotta, se non assente.

I post erano: << a) He posted the link to the Woodland Park Video and stated, “You target sick kids to get your overtime pay.. [sic] That’s why you are a pig.”

b). He posted ,“Why did you punk ass pigs remove my post. This is a pubic [sic] forum. I’m going to sue the chief of police, the city of Woodland Park, and whatever punk ass bitch remove my post. Your actions are unconstitutional and violation of federal law 18 usc 241,242.. [sic] see you pigs in Federal court..”

c. He posted the link to the Woodland Park Video and stated, “You target sick children to Enrich [sic] officers [yellow police officer emoji] with overtime pay.. [sic] dirty ass cops.”

d. He stated, “Tyler Pope they violate the constitution daily. All too stupid to understand the oath they took. We the people will bring these terrorists into federal court.” (Ex. D, Pl. Dep. Ex. 12 at 1–2; Ex. E, Pl. Dep. at 106:3–6, 198:13–16.)>>

La corte rigetta appunto affermando la riduzione/assenza di protezione , quando ricorra obscenity, senza che ciò costituisca discriminazione: <<The restrictions on Plaintiff’s speech in this case do not run afoul of the First Amendment. He alleges that his freedom of speech was infringed because of the actions Defendant De Young and someone allegedly at the City took restricting his ability to post on certain Facebook pages after he used indecent and obscene language.

Plaintiff used the words “pig,” “terrorist,” “ass,” and “bitch” to refer to the police, and he baselessly and inaccurately accused the police of targeting sick children for personal profit.

The evidence indicates there were policies in place prohibiting the use of indecent and obscene language and that Plaintiff’s speech violated such policies. There is no genuine dispute of material fact that two other  individuals who also responded on the Police Department’s page with criticism of the warrant’s execution that were articulated with non-obscene language and, thus, not in violation of policy and did not have their posts removed.

Thus, the evidence clearly establishes that the restrictions  occurred solely because of Plaintiff’s indecent and obscenity language, not because Defendant De Young or the City were trying to censor Plaintiff’s posts about the warrant.>>

E poi: <<Plaintiff’s argument that these words are not obscene or indecent (Resp. at 6–7) goes against common sense. “Punk ass bitch” is not a literary turn of phrase. (Id. at 7.) Moreover, it is inaccurate to refer to the police as “terrorists” (id.), when there is no dispute that the execution of the search warrant was lawful. (Undisputed Facts, ¶ 1. ( ……)   Plaintiff’s argument that these words are not obscene or indecent (Resp. at 6–7) goes against common sense. “Punk ass bitch” is not a literary turn of phrase. (Id. at 7.)  Moreover, it is inaccurate to refer to the police as “terrorists” (id.), when there is no dispute that the execution of the search warrant was lawful. (Undisputed Facts, ¶ 1.>>

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

Quattro causae petendi relative al First Amendment/libertà di parola per contrastare la sospensione dell’account Youtube, ma nessuna accolta

Interessante sentenza californiana sulla solita questione della libertà di parola  (First Amendement)  asseritamente violata da sospensione dell’account su social media (politicamente di destra) da parte di una state action.

Si tratta della corte distrettuale di S. Josè, Californa, 19 ottobre 2021, Case No. 20-cv-07502-BLF, Doe c. Google,.

Sono azionate quattro causae petendi, tutte rigettate visto che nessuna è applicabile alla censura/content moderation di Youtube:

1) Public function: curiosamente l’attore e la corte invocano in senso reciprocamente opposto il  noto precedente Prager Univ. c. Google del 2020.

2) Compulsion: <<Rep. Adam Schiff and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and an October 2020 House Resolution, which “have pressed Big Tech” into censoring political speech with threats of limiting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) and other penalties.>>. Alquanto inverosimile (è però la più lungamente argometnata)

3) joint action: <<Joint action is present where the government has “so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence with [a private entity] that it must be recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity.” Gorenc v. Salt River Project Agr. Imp. and Power Dist., 869 F.2d 503, 507 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715, 725 (1961)). Further, a private defendant must be a “willful participant in joint action with the state or its agents.” Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 27 (1980). Joint action requires a “substantial degree of cooperative action” between private and public actors. Collins v. Womancare, 878 F.2d 1145, 1154 (9th Cir. 1989).>.

Per gli attori la  joint action theory starebbe in un  <<Twitter exchange between Rep. Schiff and YouTube CEO Susan Wojnicki in which Ms. Wojnicki states, “We appreciate your partnership and will continue to consult with Members of Congress as we address the evolving issues around #COVID19.” FAC, Ex. E at 1; Opp. at 10-15. Plaintiffs argue that this Twitter exchange shows Defendants and the federal government were in an “admitted partnership.”>>. Allegazione un pò leggerina.

4) Governmental nexus: ricorre quando c’è << “such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that the seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.” Kirtley v. Rainey, 326 F.3d 1088, 1094-95 (9th Cir. 2003). “The purpose of this requirement is to assure that constitutional standards are invoked only when it can be said that the State is responsible for the specific conduct of which plaintiff complains.” Blum, 457 U.S. at 1004-1005>>. (sembra assai simile alla prcedente).

Non avendo accolto alcuna di quesrta, non affronta il safe harbour ex 230 CDA, p. 12. Curioso l’rodine logico : il criterio della ragine più liquidqa avrebbe potuto a rigttare (nel merito) con tale norma.

(sentenza e link dal blog di Eric Goldman)

Diritto di parola nei confronti della comunità locale che vuole far togliere dei post da Instagram

Interessante, atipico ed inquietante caso deciso nel Wisconsin il 24.09.2021, ase No. 20-cv-0620-bhl, Cohoon v. Konrath-Klump.

Un ragazza (Amyiah cohon) si ammala di Covid19: nonostante un test negativo, i medici glielo indicano come probabile, essendo agli inizi della pandemia ed essendo probabilmente ancor poco preciso). Posta su instagram in due occasioni successive delle foto, che la rappresentano malata ed anzi con ossigenatori.

La comunità locale si spaventa, non avendo ancora avuto all’epoca alcun  caso, e tramite lo sceriffo chiede che vengano rimosse . Lo sceriffo avanza la richeista in modo deciso, addirittura ventilando la possibilità che operi una sanzione penale detentiva in caso di rifiuto.

La ragazza però agisce in giudizio chiedendo: (1) a declaratory judgment establishing that Defendants violated her First Amendment rights, and (2) an injunction enjoining Defendants from citing her or her parents for disorderly conduct, arresting them, jailing them, or threatening any of the above, for future posts on social media about her scare with COVID-19. (ECF No. 3 at 1.).

La corte accoglie la prima domanda ma rigetta la seconda.

Il punto qui interssante è l’allegata violazione del primo emendamento (liberà di parola) data dalla condotta dello sceriffo, quando tentò (troppo) energicamente di persuadere la ragazza e i suoi genitori a  rimuovere i posts, per il panico creato nella comunicà locale

Ecco il passsaggio rilevante: <<Even if short and often grammatically scurrilous, social media posts do not fall outside the ambit of the First Amendment.  To the contrary, they are exactly what the First Amendment seeks to protect.  See Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1732 (2017) (explaining that social media is often the “principal source[] for . . . speaking and listening in the modern public square”).  In the eyes of the law, when Amyiah Cohoon took to Instagram, she was no different than John F. Tinker wearing his black armband in the halls of the Des Moines public schools, or Paul Robert Cohen donning his “Fuck the Draft” jacket in the corridors of the Los Angeles County Courthouse, and her speech deserved the same degree of protection.  See Tinker v.  Des Moines Independent Cmty.  Sch.  Dist.,  393  U.S.  503,  511  (1969);  Cohen  v.  California,  403  U.S.  15  (1971);  see  also  Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. v. B. L. by & through Levy, 141 S. Ct. 2038, 2042 (2021) (holding that a student’s social media posts containing derogatory remarks about her school’s cheerleading team were protected by the First Amendment).  

But  Defendants  disagree.    In  their  view,  Amyiah  forfeited  her  constitutional  protection  when she published a post that caused concern in the community and led  to an influx of phone calls to the Westfield School District and Marquette County Health Department.  (ECF No. 17 at 13.)  According to Sheriff Konrath, this was akin to “screaming fire in a crowded movie theater.”  (ECF No. 1-9 at 1.)  Even setting aside that the popular movie theater analogy actually referred to “falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic,” Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 52 (1919) (emphasis added), Defendants’ argument still fails.  While content-based speech restrictions are permissible in limited circumstances (incitement, obscenity, defamation, fighting words, child pornography, etc.), the Supreme Court “has rejected as ‘startling and dangerous’ a ‘free-floating  test  for  First  Amendment  coverage  .  .  .  based  on  an  ad  hoc  balancing  of  relative  social costs and benefits.’”  U.S. v. Alvarez, 567 U.S. 709, 717 (2012) (quoting United States v. Stevens, 559 U.S. 460, 470 (2010)).   Labeling  censorship  societally  beneficial  does  not  render  it  lawful.    If  it  did,  nearly  all  censorship  would  evade  First  Amendment  scrutiny.    Defendants  may  have  preferred  to  keep Marquette  County  residents  ignorant  to  the  possibility  of  COVID-19  in  their  community  for  a  while longer, so they could avoid having to field calls from concerned citizens, but that preference did  not  give  them  authority  to  hunt  down  and  eradicate  inconvenient  Instagram  posts.    See Terminiello  v.  City  of  Chicago,  337  U.S.  1,  4  (1949)  (holding  that  speech  is  protected  against  censorship  or  punishment  unless  likely  to  produce  “a  clear  and  present  danger  of  a  serious  substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest”).  Amyiah’s post is not captured by any of the categorical exceptions to the First Amendment, so this Court will not balance the social utility of curtailing it against its government-assigned value.   But  Defendants  persist.    They  cast  Amyiah’s  characterization  of  her  illness  as  a  lie, insisting that because she ultimately tested negative, she was prohibited from publicly proclaiming that she had beaten COVID-19.   But the very doctors who tested her also informed her that she may  have  had  COVID-19  in  spite  of  the  negative  test.    Her  Instagram  posts  were,  therefore,  at worst, incomplete.  The notion that the long arm of the government—redaction pen in hand—can extend to this sort of incomplete speech is plainly wrong.  The Marquette County Sheriff had no more ability to silence Amyiah’s posts than it would to silence the many talking heads on cable news, who routinely pronounce one-sided hot takes on the issues of the day, purposefully ignoring any inconvenient facts that might disrupt their preferred narratives.  Indeed, even if Amyiah’s posts had been untruthful, no court has ever suggested that noncommercial false speech is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.  See Alvarez, 567 U.S. at 720.  The Supreme Court has emphasized: “[t]he remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true.  This is the ordinary course in a free society.”  Id. at 727.  The government here had every opportunity to counter Amyiah’s speech, but it opted instead to engage in the objectionable practice of censorship.  Because her Instagram post was undoubtedly protected by the First Amendment, the Court finds that Amyiah has satisfied the first element of her retaliation claim. >>+

Il punto centrale difensivo è dunque:   In  their  view,  Amyiah  forfeited  her  constitutional  protection  when she published a post that caused concern in the community and led  to an influx of phone calls to the Westfield School District and Marquette County Health Department.  (ECF No. 17 at 13.)  According to Sheriff Konrath, this was akin to “screaming fire in a crowded movie theater.” .

Implausibile e irricevibile difesa da parte dei due sceriffi/sergenti. Il conflitto tra il diritto di informare della gravità del morbo in arrivo, parlando di se, e l’esigenza di tranquillità della comunità locale che verrebbe incrinata dalla circolazione delle foto , come se non parlarne potesse fermarlo. Da qui l’aggettivo inquietante all’inizio del post: sarebbe grave un esito opposto.

Il giudice accoglie la domanda di Amyiah (sul punto 1).

Interessante è poi il ragionamento sulla adverse action (cioè l’inibizione del diritti di parola9 a p. 7 ss., consistita nella eccessiva pressione da parte dello sceriffo (da noi non sarebbe reato? Abuso di ufficio? Violenza privata? Minaccia?)

Azione contrattuale contro Youtube per discriminazione etnico/razziale respinta da una corte californiana

La corte del distretto nord della california, s. Josè division, 25.06.2021, KIMBERLY CARLESTE NEWMAN, e altri c. Google e altri, case No.20CV04011LHK, rigetta varie domande contrattuali di utenti contro Youtube, basate su pretese discrminazioni razziali.

Gli attori, gerenti canali su Youtube , ritengono di essere stati discriminati in vari modi: filtraggi ingiustificati, solo per la loro provenienza razziale, nella Restricted Mode; riduzione o impedimento delle chance di monetizzazine, non venendo agganciati ad advertisment; shadow banning e altre pratiche, ad es. qualificando i video come soggetti a Restricted Mode ( dettagli a p. 2-4).

La domanda di violazione ex sec- 1981 del 42 US CODE (Equal rights under the law: normativa antidiscriminatoria) è rigettata per assenza di prova dellelemenot intenzionaleò, p. 9 ss.

Ma qui interessa spt. il punto del Primo Ementamento, p. 15 ss: la condotta di Y,. non è state action nè tale diventa per la protezione di legge offerta dal safe harbour ex § 230 CDA (tesi alquanto astrusa, invero).

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

Diritto di parola e censura in Facebook: altra pronuncia che ne nega la qualità di “state actor”

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 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. Appx 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 ¶ 812. 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.¶ 1011>>.

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 192829). 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 companyowned 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. Appx 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>>

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)

Discriminazione su YouTube e Primo Emendamento

La Corte Distrettuale californiana-divisione San Jose, 06.01.2021, nel caso n. 19-cv-04749-VKD, Divino Group e altri contro Google, esamina il caso del se un’asserita discriminazione tramite la piattaforma YouTube possa essere tutelata con ricorso al Primo Emendamento

Gli attori, esponenti della comunità LGBTQ+, si ritenevano discriminati dalla piattaforma di condivisione YouTube in due modalità: i) non gli era permessa la monetizzazione  dei video caricati, che invece è normalmente ammessa da YouTube per i video di maggior successo come introito dalla relativa pubblicità; ii) erano immotivatamente stati qualificati video in <Restricted Mode> (vedi sub pagina 4/5 e pagina 2/3 sulle modalità di funzionamento di queste caratteristiche YouTube)

Gli attori dunque lamentavano la violazione del diritto di parola secondo il Primo Emendamento in relazione al § 1983 del Chapter 42 Us Code, che così recita <<every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia>>

Le ragioni dell’invocazione del Primo Emendamento erano due.

Per la prima, YouTube costituisce uno state actor , quindi sottoposto ai vincoli del primo emendamento . Cio anche perché è la stessa Google/YouTube a dichiararsi Public forum for free Expression (p. 7).

Per la seconda ragione, Google , per il fatto di invocare <<the protections of a federal statute—Section 230 of the CDA—to unlawfully discriminate against plaintiffs and/ortheir content, defendants’ private conduct, becomes state action “endorsed” by the federal government>>, p. 8

Circa il primo punto,  qui il più interessante, la Corte risponde che la domanda è espressamente  ostacolata dal campo di applicazione del Primo Emendamento, così come delineato dalla nota sentenza Praeger University versus Google del 2020: le piattaforme non svolgono le tradizionali funzioni governative, pagina 8/9.

La seconda ragione non è molto chiara.   Sembra di capire che, per il solo fatto che la legge (§ 230 CDA) permetta la censura e quindi la selezione dei post, l’avvalersi di tale norma costituisce esercizio di pubblici poteri, sicchè tornerebbe l’applicabilità del primo emendamento.

La Corte però rigetta anche questa ragione (agina 9/11): <<plaintiffs nevertheless argue that government action exists whereCongress permits selective censorship of particular speech by a private entity>>, p. 11.  Il caso Denver Area del 1996, invocato dagli attori, è molto lontano dalla fattispecie sub iudice, ove manca  un incarico di svolgere pubbliche funzioni (pagina 11).

A parte altre causae petendi (ad es. false association e false advertising ex Lanham Act, sub 2, p. 12), gli attori avevano anche chiesto la dichiarazione di incostituzionalità del §   230 CDA. Anche qui, però,  la corte rigetta, seppur  per ragioni processuali , p .17-18

(sentenza e link tratti dal blog di Eric Goldman).