NEWSFLASH! 2/24-3/9

Happy Monday! Although FALR staffers are enjoying a week of Spring Break, First Amendment doesn’t stop! Here are some recent headlines:

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill that prohibits the state from contracting with any companies that boycott Israel.  The law states that the Oklahoma “shall not enter into a contract with a company unless the company submits a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in a boycott of goods or services from Israel….” The American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations are poised to bring lawsuits challenging the bill if it is passed by the state’s Senate. Both groups hold that economic boycotts like those prohibited by the law are a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the website YouTube is not bound by First Amendment restrictions like that of a government entity. The Ninth Circuit relied on Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck where SCOTUS held that “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.” Similarly, the Circuit court noted that “YouTube may be a paradigmatic public square on the Internet, but it is not transformed into a state actor solely by providing a forum for speech.”

Democratic Presidential Candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, brought a lawsuit brought a lawsuit against Google this past summer when the site suspended her campaign’s advertising account for six hours. Google spokespeople noted that the suspension resulted from an automated security measure that triggers when unusual activity users’ accounts such as large expenditures is detected. Gabbard’s lawsuit alleged that the brief lapse in her account was an infringement upon her free speech. Like that of the Ninth Circuit, a judge from the District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the suit noting that the First Amendment does prevent private companies like Google from curbing free speech.  

In other political/free speech news, President Trump has brought his own slew of lawsuits against the New York Times and Washington Post alleging that opinion pieces published by the newspapers were defamatory. Each op-ed suggested that the President has invited Russian interference in the American political process. President Trump has promised more lawsuits in the coming future however some experts, including Brian Hauss, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, are skeptical: “A publisher cannot be held liable for commentary based on public facts.”

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