First Amendment constraints don’t apply to private platforms, Supreme Court affirms
In a case closely watched for its potential implications for social media, the Supreme Court has ruled that a nonprofit running public access channels isn’t bound by governmental constraints on speech. The case, which the conservative wing of the court decided in a split 5–4 ruling, centered around a Manhattan-based nonprofit tasked by New York City with operating public access channels in the area. The organization disciplined two producers after a film led to complaints, which the producers argued was a violation of their First Amendment speech rights. The case turned on whether the nonprofit was a “state actor” running a platform governed by First Amendment constraints.
In a decision written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the conservative justices ruled that the First Amendment constraints didn’t apply to the nonprofit, which they considered a private entity. Providing a forum for speech wasn’t enough to become a government actor, the justices ruled. Nowhere is the internet or social media discussed in the ruling, but the idea that the decision could be used to penalize social media companies was raised by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The groups argued that too broad of a decision could prevent other private entities like YouTube and Twitter from managing their platforms by imposing new constraints them.
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