Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Allowing Public Access Networks to Control Content in Free Speech Case

Published by Matt Fishman on

Today June 17, 2019 the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of New York City’s public access network (MNN) in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (1). The case centered around two people whom were suspended from airing content on MNN after they produced a film critical of the public access network, and which the public access network subsequently aired; The two argued the suspension “violated their First Amendment free-speech rights when it restricted their access to the public access channels because of the content of their film” (1). The Supreme Court denied this claim on the basis that the public access network “is not a state actor and therefore is not subject to First Amendment constraints on its editorial discretion…as The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits only governmental, not private, abridgment of speech” (1). The outcome of this case has drawn questions on its implication of private entities’ control of content, similar to the Supreme Court case Packingham v. North Carolina, decided in 2017, that ruled a North Carolina statute which “makes it a felony for a registered sex offender to access a commercial social networking Web site… [which] permits minor children to become members… impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment” (2). In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled “that the law violated the First Amendment” and “that all persons [should] have access to places where they can speak and listen… [including] social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter” (2).

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