PLF urges Supreme Court to keep government hands off the internet in free speech case

December 18, 2018 | By DANIEL ORTNER
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If you care about issues like free speech and private property rights, keep an eye on the case of Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week, PLF, along with TechFreedom, filed a brief before the Supreme Court in the case, supporting the principle that private property remains private even when the government heavily regulates an industry or requires that some of the property be dedicated to public use.

Here’s the background: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a New York City–based television network that operates public access television networks was a “state actor.” Why? Because its broadcast channels resembled public forums comparable to a public park. This overly broad ruling puts private property owners at risk of being transformed into appendages of the state and being deprived of the right to exclude others from using their property.

For instance, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook that allow the public to post content could be held liable if they allowed all content, no matter how egregious or hateful, to remain on their sites.

While there are extremely narrow circumstances when private parties can be held liable as if they were government entities, the Second Circuit’s overly broad and poorly reasoned opinion risks conscripting broad swaths of private property into government service.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and PLF is optimistic the justices will take a strong stance in protection of private property interests.

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