After the recent censorship purge of over 800 independent media outlets on Facebook, the Supreme Court is now hearing a case that could have ramifications for any future attempts at similar purges.
The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take a case that could change free speech on the Internet. Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-702, the case that it has agreed to take, will decide if the private operator of a public
access network is considered a state actor.
The case could affect how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and YouTube are governed. If the Court were to issue a far-reaching ruling it could subject such companies to First Amendment lawsuits and force them to allow a much
broader scope of free speech from its users.
DeeDee Halleck and Jesus Melendez claimed that they were fired from Manhattan Neighborhood Network for speaking critically of the network. And, though the case does not involve the Internet giants, it could create a ruling that expands the First
Amendment beyond the government.
The recent Fosta law in the US forces internet companies to censor anything to do with legal, adult and consensual sex work. It holds them liable for abetting sex traffickers even when they can't possibly distinguish the trafficking from the
legal sex work. The only solution is therefore to ban the use of their platforms for any personal hook ups. So indeed adult sex work websites have been duly cleansed from the US internet.
But now a woman is claiming that Facebook facilitated trafficking when of course its nigh on impossible for Facebook to detect such use of their networking systems. But of course that's no excuse under the FOSTA.
According to a new lawsuit by an unnamed woman in Houston, Texas, Facebook's morally bankrupt corporate culture for permitting a sex trafficker to force her into prostitution after beating and raping her. She claims Facebook should be held
responsible when a user on the social media platform sexually exploits another Facebook user. The lawsuit says that Facebook should have warned the woman, who was 15 years old at the time she was victimized, that its platform could be used by sex
traffickers to recruit and groom victims, including children.
The lawsuit also names Backpage.com, which according to a Reuters report , hosted pictures of the woman taken by the man who victimized her after he uploaded them to the site.
The classified advertising site Backpage has already been shut down by federal prosecutors in April of this year.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given a thumbs down to censorship of an ad called Faces of Global Terrorism .
The years-long lawsuit is over an ad based on an image created by the State Department that previously was run on county buses in the Seattle area.
The ad was submitted to King County Metro Transit (KCMT) by Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and their organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
It first was rejected on a long list of grounds, including that some of its statements were inaccurate.The statements were corrected, but KCMT still rejected it on the grounds that it disparaged some people and might disrupt the system.
The court found that found that KCMT's arguments were lofty ideals, but were unconstitutional in this case. The court said:
We conclude that Metro's disparagement standard discriminates, on its face, on the basis of viewpoint, the panel explained. The ruling said Metro requires the refusal of ads that disparage people, but giving offense is a viewpoint, so Metro's
disparagement clause discriminates.
As for the disruption?
The transit system previously had run the largely similar ad presented by the State Department, with no ill effects
A federal court considering a challenge to the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA , dismissed the case on Monday.
EFF and partner law firms filed a lawsuit in June against the Justice Department on behalf of two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist to block enforcement of FOSTA.
Unfortunately, a federal court sided with the government and dismissed Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. v. United States. The court did not reach the merits of any of the constitutional issues, but instead found that none of the plaintiffs had
standing to challenge the law's legality.
We're disappointed and believe the decision is wrong. For example, the court failed to apply the standing principles that are usually applied in First Amendment cases in which the plaintiffs' speech is chilled. The plaintiffs are considering
their options for their next steps.
FOSTA was passed by Congress for the worthy purpose of fighting sex trafficking, but the poorly-written bill contains language that criminalizes the protected speech of those who advocate for and provide resources to adult, consensual sex
workers. Worse yet, the bill actually hinders efforts to prosecute sex traffickers and aid victims.
The lawsuit argues that FOSTA forces community forums and speakers offline for fear of criminal charges and heavy civil liability, in violation of their constitutional rights. We asked the federal court to strike down the law, though the
government argued that the plaintiffs were not likely to be subject to criminal or civil liability under the law.
Facebook's Partnership with US state-funded think tanks
Last Wednesday Facebook announced it would work with two US government-funded think tanks in order bolster the social media giant's election integrity efforts around the globe.
The new partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) has been described by Reuters as an initiative to slow the global spread of misinformation that could influence elections,
acknowledging that fake news sites were still read by millions.
But both the IRI and NDI are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) , which has since its late Cold War era founding defined itself as a soft power wing of the US government abroad focused on democracy promotion.
Journalist Max Blumenthal recently described the NDI as a taxpayer funded organization that has interfered in elections, mobilized coups, and orchestrated public relations campaigns against nations that resist Washington's agenda.