Amid all the rancor by presidential candidates, other politicians, and some of the public at large to regulate speech among social media outlets large and small, comes this bit of harsh reality to some. Most social media is not a public forum. Social media by and large consists of private entities. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. They can publish and broadcast what they want. And they can generally ban speech they don’t want.
It is well established under the First Amendment that the government should not be telling private entities – or private individuals, for that matter – what they can and cannot say. The latest court decision to confirm this proposition is Prager University v. Google.
PragerU, as it is known, alleged that YouTube and its parent company, Google, restricted access or the placing of ads on its website because of its conservative views (a similar argument by a “liberal” or “moderate” entity would make no difference). PragerU argued that the ubiquity of YouTube had transformed itself into a public platform – like a public park where all are allowed to speak their minds pursuant to the First Amendment right to free speech.
Not so, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment.”
Private businesses, just like private individuals, should be able to allow or restrict speech in their home environments as they see fit. To do otherwise would lead to government control of freedom of speech. That would not be a pretty sight.