Le pagine Facebook e Twitter dei Trustees di una scuola pubblica sono “public forum” e devono rispettare il Primo Emendamento

Aprofondita sentenza di appello sull’oggetto, resa dal 9° Circuito, 27 luglio 2022, Nos. 21-55118 e 21-55157, D.C. No. 3:17-cv-02215-BEN-JLB, Garnier v. O’Connor-Ratcliff  e Zane.

Alcuni Trustees del Poway Unified School District (“PUSD” or the “District”) Board of Trustees (scuola pubblica, parrebbe: non si potrebbe ravvisare public forum per una scuola privata) bannarono due genitori dalla pagina Facebook (F.) per le loro critiche continue e estese , anche se non offensive

I genitori agirono per violazione del Primo  Emendamento (libertà di parola)  in relazione al 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights.

L’appello conferma il primo grado dicendo che ricorre State Action (color of state law) e che il Primo Emendamento va rispettato anche sui social media, se usati nel dialogo con i cittadini: essi infatti diventano Designated Public Fora.

Succo: << The Garniers’ claims present an issue of first impression
in this Circuit: whether a state official violates the First
Amendment by creating a publicly accessible social media
page related to his or her official duties and then blocking
certain members of the public from that page because of the
nature of their comments. For the following reasons, we
hold that, under the circumstances presented here, the
Trustees have acted under color of state law by using their
social media pages as public fora in carrying out their official
duties. We further hold that, applying First Amendment
public forum criteria, the restrictions imposed on the
Garniers’ expression are not appropriately tailored to serve
a significant governmental interest and so are invalid. We
therefore affirm the district court judgment
>>, p. 6.

Si v. poi:

– i quattro criteri per ravvisare State Action, p. 18.

– il concetto di <designated public forum> e di <limited public forum>, p. 35.

– non è spam giustificativo della censura la continuata rieptizione di post critici, p. 39 ss

– l’usare i filtri Word, permesso da F., non fa diventare chiuso quello che altrimenti  è un public forum, p,. 15 ss

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

Il divieto di usare social media non è troppo vago in relaizone al Primo Emendamento

Circa la c.d. probation di un minore (sospensione condizionale della pena, suppergiù) , la condizione <<that he “not knowingly post, display or transmit on social media or through his cell phone any symbols or information that [he] knows to be, or that the Probation Officer informs [him] to be, gang-related.”>>  non è troppo vaga e quindi eccessiavamente limitativa del diritto di parola ex Primo Emendamento

Così L?appello della California 21 luglio 2022 H048553, H048979 (Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. 19JV43778), in re J.T..

In particolare sul concetto di <social media>:

<< As minor acknowledges, the dictionary provides a definition of the term “social
media.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “social media” constitutes
“websites and applications which enable users to create and share content or to
participate in social networking.” (Oxford English Dict. Online (2022)
> [as of July 21, 2022], archived at: <https://perma.cc/S6WV-Q3SK>.) Thus, a
practical, acceptable, and common-sense definition of the term exists, which is what a
probation condition needs to pass constitutional muster.

In determining the adequacy of the notice provided by a probation condition, we
are guided by the general principle that the condition’s language must only have
“ ‘ “
reasonable specificity,” ’ ” not “ ‘mathematical certainty.’ ” (Sheena K., supra,
40 Cal.4th at p. 890.) And, a probation condition is sufficiently specific “ ‘ “if any
reasonable and practical construction can be given its language or if its terms may be
made reasonably certain by reference to other definable sources.” ’ ” (
People v. Lopez
(1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 615, 630 (Lopez).)
Here, the term “social media” has a reasonably certain definition: websites where
users are able to share and generate content, and find and connect with other users of
common interests. Moreover, the condition’s purpose—to deter minor from engaging in
street gang activity—lends the needed clarity. A trial court’s reasons for imposing a
probation condition can cure a vagueness problem because “ ‘abstract legal commands
must be applied in a specific
context. A contextual application of otherwise unqualified
legal language may supply the clue to a law’s meaning, giving facially standardless
language a constitutionally sufficient concreteness.’ ” (
Lopez, supra, 66 Cal.App.4th at
p. 630.)
For example, in
In re Malik J. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 896 (Malik J.), the
appellate court considered whether a probation condition requiring the minor to
“ ‘provide all passwords to any electronic devices, including cell phones, computers or
[notepads], within [the probationer’s] custody or control’ ” was unconstitutionally vague
or overbroad. (
Id. at p. 900.) The minor argued that the phrase “ ‘any electronic
devices’ ” could be interpreted to include Kindles, PlayStations, iPods, the codes to his
car, home security system, or even his ATM card. (
Id. at p. 904.) The appellate court
observed that the search condition was imposed in response to the trial court’s concern
that the minor would use items such as his cell phone to coordinate with other offenders
and because he had previously robbed people of their iPhones. (
Id. at pp. 904-905.)
Therefore, the appellate court concluded that it was reasonably clear that the condition

was meant to encompass “similar electronic devices within [minor’s] custody and control
that might be stolen property, and not, as [minor] conjectures, to authorize a search of his
Kindle to see what books he is reading or require him to turn over his ATM password.”
Id. at p. 905.)
As in
Malik J., the condition’s purpose here—to deter minor from engaging in
street gang activity—provides guidance to minor and clarifies what types of “social
media” the condition intends to target. When deciding to impose gang conditions, the
juvenile court noted that the probation report disclosed that minor “wore red clothing
[and] seemed to hang out with Norte[ñ]o street gang guys,” and that there were “various
photos posted and included in the probation report as well as the Instagram issues and
tattoo issues.” The court’s statements render it “reasonably clear” that the condition was
intended to prohibit street gang-related activity on websites where users are able to share
and generate content. (
Malik J., supra, 240 Cal.App.4th at p. 905.)
Minor relies on
Packingham v. North Carolina (2017) 137 S.Ct. 1730
Packingham) for his vagueness claim, but that case is inapposite here. Unlike this case,
Packingham did not involve a probation condition; it involved a law that made it a felony
for registered sex offenders, including those who had completed their sentences, to
“access . . . a number of websites, including commonplace social media websites like
Facebook and Twitter.” (
Id. at p. 1733.) The Supreme Court held that the law violated
the First Amendment because it “ ‘burden[ed] substantially more speech than is necessary
to further the government’s legitimate interests’ ” in protecting children from sexual
abuse. (
Id. at p. 1736.) Packingham does not address the issue before us—whether the
term “social media,” as used in a probation condition that forbids gang-related postings,
displays, or transmissions, is unconstitutionally vague. “ ‘ ‘ “[C]ases are not authority for
propositions not considered.’ ” ’ ” (
People v. Baker (2021) 10 Cal.5th 1044, 1109.)
For all of these reasons, we do not find the term “social media” to be
unconstitutionally vague as used in the challenged probation condition

Altri rigetti di domande verso le piattaforme: non sono State Actors

Altri due precedenti che negano illecito delle piattaforme vs. l’utente.

Uno lo nega in una domanda contro Linkedin per sospensione dell’account (Perez c. Linkedin , Corte d’applelo 9 circuito 18.11.2021, D.C. No. 5:20cv07238EJD): provvedimento brevissimo, praticamente immotivato (la causa petendi era il primo emendamento)

L’altro lo nega in una domanda contro Youtube  per violazione di privacy, non avendola difesa da attacchi informatici al suo account e da conseguente harassment a se e alla famiglia (Sescey c. Youtube, Easter district od Pennsylvania, 18.11.2021, Case 2:21-cv-03311-GJP). La norma azionata era il noto paragragfo 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concedente azione per violazione di diritti costituzionali

Motivazione qui appena più significativa: <<Based on the Complaint’s allegations, it appears the named Defendants a private social media company and its legal department are not subject to liability under Section 1983. Cf. Prager Univ. v. Google LLC, 951 F.3d 991, 999 (9th Cir. 2020)  (affirming the dismissal of a First Amendment claim because YouTube was a private entity and not a state actor); see also Rutenburg v. Twitter, Inc., No. 210548, 2021 WL 1338958, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2021) (“Federal courts have uniformly rejected attempts to treat similar social media companies [such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google] as state actors under Section 1983.”) (collecting cases). Sescey does not allege Defendants are state actors or that they had any connection to a state, county, or local governmental entity. Her Complaint does not allege any facts to show a “close nexus” between the private behavior of YouTube and its legal department and the state itself such that the challenged action here can fairly be treated as an action of the state. Leshko, 423 F.3d at 339. None of Sescey’s allegations support an inference that Defendants are anything other than a privatelyrun social media company and its internal legal department>>

Si noti spt. il riferimento al caso Prager University.

(notizia e link alle sentenze dal blog di Eric Goldman)

L’account Twitter e Facebook di un senatore (statale, non federale) costituisce “designated public forum”

Un senatore della Florida, a seguito di critiche mossegli da un cittadino, lo “banna” dal suo account di Twitter e poi di Facebook. Dice che lo ha fatto per profanity nei suoi post ma la corte distrettuale USA rigetta e dà ragione al cittadino “bannato”, vedendovi una ritorsione per le critiche al suo operato politico (US DC Northern district of Florida  -Gainesville division , 17.03.2021, Attwood c. Clemons, Case No.: 1:18cv38-MW/MJF).

La domanda è basata sul 42 U.S. Code § 1983. Civil action for deprivation of rights, riferito al 1° e al 14° emendamento dlela costituzione.

Viene  accertato che il senatore abbia agito under color of state law, p. 9 ss.

Qui c’è l’interessante questione sollevata dal senatore ma rigetta dalla corte, attinente al se il legislator speech (statale) possa in linea di principio essere considerato esentato da state action perchè a sua volta tutelato quale inherently private, p. 14-15.

A p. 15 la corte ricorda  i due elementi per ravvisare state action nella gestione degli account social da parte dei politici: << 1) whether the official uses the account in furtherance of their official duties, and 2) whether the presentation of the account is connected with the official’s position. Charudattan, 834 F. App’x at 481–82; Knight First Amendment Inst., 928 F.3d at 235–36>>.
In conclusione <<a reasonable fact finder could find that Defendant’s social media activity constituted state action>>. Ma poi l’indagine prosegue dovend o accertare <<whether Defendant is entitled to summary judgment, this Court must also address which class of forum Defendant’s social media accounts constitute and whether Defendant’s restriction of Plaintiff’s speech is consistent with the class of forum identified>>, p. 19,.

A p. 20-23 evidenzia tre ragioni per applicare la public forum doctrine ai social media: si tratta di passaggio importante, anche se non nuovo.

Per la corte va dunque  applicato il concetto di forum , anche se ve ne sono quattro tipi: << 1) traditional public forums, 2) designated public forums, 3) limited public forums, and 4) non-public forums.Barrett v. Walker Cnty. Sch.Dist., 872 F.3d 1209, 1226 (11th Cir. 2017). As set out below, this Court concludes that Defendant’s social media accounts are designated public forums when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.>>, p. 23 . Come si vede, conclude che ricorre il tipo n° 2, dopo aver soprattutto indagato l’alternativa possibile tra il n. 2 e il n. 3 (p .24 ss ove esame dei due cocnetti).

Del resto non c’erano limitazioni per gli utentei poste ex ante : <<in this case, Defendant’s social media settings and absence of any explicit restriction limiting discourse to certain speech shows that Defendant provides unrestricted access to the public for expressive activity. Therefore, this Court concludes that Defendant’s social media accounts are designated public forums>> p. 27

Passa poi all’analisi della violazione costitutizionale, p. 27 ss.

E esamina se ricorra discriminazione , se cioè la gestione e il bannaggio sia stato una viewpoint discrimination, p. 30 ss. La ravvisa: <<because Defendant’s actions arguably constitute viewpoint discrimination, this Court must next determine whether Defendant has a compelling interest in blocking Plaintiff. He does not. When the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the only interest in blocking Plaintiff is to suppress Plaintiff’s criticism of Defendant’s viewpoint. Put another way, the only interest Defendant has in blocking Plaintiff is to ensure that Plaintiff’s opposing viewpoints are not shared on his account. Such an interest is not compelling. Indeed, it runs afoul of the First Amendment. As such, Defendant’s actions do not survive strict scrutiny reviewwhen the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.>>, p .30.

Si noti la precisazione (non particolarmente rivoluzionaria, ma importante a fini pratici), per cui la possibilità per il cittadino di interloquiore in altro modo col Senatore (ad es. aprendo nuovi account) non ha rilevanza , trattandosi di burden on speech inammissibile, pp. 30-31-

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