Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck

A Supreme Court case involving free speech on private property

On January 18, 2019, the Knight Institute filed an amicus brief in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a case in which the Supreme Court considered whether the First Amendment bars the private operator of New York City’s public access television channels from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint.

Government agencies and officials are increasingly harnessing the power of the internet and social media to create expressive spaces for members of the public. These digital spaces are the online equivalents of traditional town halls and public squares—except that they are often hosted on platforms owned by private companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

The Knight Institute's amicus brief in Halleck argued that the First Amendment protects speech in expressive spaces controlled by the government—such as official social media accounts—even if they are established on privately owned property.

Status: Decided on June 17, 2019. In a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the private operator of New York City's public access television channels is not a state actor subject to the First Amendment. In doing so, the Court reaffirmed the longstanding principle that, unlike a purely private entity, "[w]hen the government provides a forum for speech . . . the government may be constrained by the First Amendment."

Case Information: Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702 (U.S.).

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