Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck — Case Could Have Broad Implications for Free Speech Online

Today, the government is increasingly harnessing the power of the Internet and social media to create new and dynamic spaces for members of the public to speak their minds. These interactive spaces are the online equivalents of traditional town halls and public squares—and for that reason, they are crucial to democracy in the digital age.

But unlike a typical town hall, these digital spaces are often hosted on privately owned property. Facebook, Google, Twitter—these are all private companies. Yet agencies and officials at all levels of government are using these platforms to create public spaces.

To ensure that the core requirements of the First Amendment apply to these government-controlled spaces, the Knight Institute has submitted an amicus brief in Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck, a case before the United States Supreme Court that raises the question whether the First Amendment bars a public-access cable television station in New York City from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. The brief argues that the First Amendment protects speech in interactive digital spaces that are established and controlled by the government—such as official social media pages or online town halls—even if they are established on privately owned platforms.