There was a supreme court decision that said that the government can't conspire with private companies to censor. Can anyone tell me the name of the case?

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    Would this be a US Supreme Court decision?> Remember that Law.SE is world-wide, and many countries have a "Supreme Court" Apr 5, 2022 at 15:38
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    Welcome to the site. When asking questions about a specific jurisdiction (country, state, etc) please always add the corresponding tag to your question. Apr 5, 2022 at 15:40
  • I have not found such a case. Do you have any idea when it might have occurred? Do you recall anything about the particular circumstances? Apr 5, 2022 at 15:55
  • I've not found anything from neither the Supreme Courts of England and Wales nor India.
    – user35069
    Apr 5, 2022 at 16:06
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    @Rick I presume you are referring to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
    – phoog
    Apr 8, 2022 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


I'm not convinced that there is a U.S. Supreme Court case with such a clear holding. For example:

May a private entity running a public access channel ban speakers based on the content of their speech—something a government entity running the same channels could not do?

Yes, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 opinion in Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck (2019).

Why? Because the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private entities in this instance.

You may be looking for one of the cases discussed in Halleck which notes (in the official syllabus) that:

"A private entity may qualify as a state actor . . . when the entity exercises “powers traditionally exclusively reserved to the State.” Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U. S. 345, 352 [1974]. The Court has stressed that “very few” functions fall into that category. Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U. S. 149, 158 [1978].

Per the official syllabus in the link above, Jackson held that:

The convergence between the actions of a state and a heavily regulated private utility company do not rise to the level of state action if the utility company has a partial monopoly in providing electrical service and uses a procedure that the state utilities commission finds to be appropriate under state law in terminating service to customers.

As the linked material explains:

A private entity performing a public function can be classified as a state actor, but merely being regulated and overseen by the state does not equate to performing a public function if the company is managed by private actors. In this decision, the Court placed limits on the public function doctrine, which otherwise could have grown into a massive exception permitting the inference of state action.

Thus, heavy state regulation of a private entity still doesn't constitute state action which can violate a constitutional right, in this case, even though if the state has had greater control over the nominally private entity (e.g. appointing its board of directors), the private entity's actions would be state action.

Per the official syllabus in the link above, the primary holding of Flagg Bros. was that:

A warehouseman's proposed sale of goods entrusted to him for storage, as permitted by [New York State's Uniform Commercial Code] § 7-210, is not "state action," and since the allegations of the complaint failed to establish that any violation of respondents' Fourteenth Amendment rights was committed by either the storage company or the State of New York, the District Court properly concluded that no claim for relief was stated by respondents under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In reaching this conclusion, the U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that:

The challenged statute does not delegate to the storage company an exclusive prerogative of the sovereign. Other remedies for the settlement of disputes between debtors and creditors (which is not traditionally a public function) remain available to the parties. Though respondents contend that the State authorized and encouraged the storage company's action by enacting [the statute], a State's mere acquiescence in a private action does not convert such action into that of the State.

In other words, enactment of a state statute authorizing private action is not state action that can violate a constitutional right.


I figured it out myself. It was Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963)

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    The holding in Bantam Books was that a Rhode Island state government created and appointed commission that issued warnings to private companies that media was obscene, but could not enforce obscenity punishments itself and instead referred cases of non-compliance with warnings to local police to prosecute under state obscenity statutes, violated the First Amendment. It did not hold that "government can't conspire with private companies to censor," since both the commission and the police are governmental actors acting under color of state law; it held that the Commission was a state actor.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 8, 2022 at 15:13
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    What part of that case constitutes a private company conspiring with the government to censor?
    – phoog
    Apr 8, 2022 at 15:17
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    The case held that the effect of the commission's actions was to create a system of prior restraint and state licensing, with no due process protections whatsoever, not even a hearing before the commission, no declared standards as to what might be considered "objectionable" and no designated method of appeal. The Court found that works not obscene under the then-current Roth standard were listed as "objectionable". It found that the result ofd listing was to totally suppress the works, so that adults as well as youths could not buy them This violates Near v Minnesota nd other cases.[...] Apr 8, 2022 at 16:20
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    [...] I see no "conspiracy" between the commission, or the police, and any private party, nor did the opinion mention any such It might be said that the police and the Commission conspired, although the Court did not use that word. But the "cooperation" of the book distributor, in removing listed works from sale, was extorted under threat of legal action, and what explicitly held not to be voluntary. This was a case of prior restraint enforced by threats rather than legal proceedings, not of any public/private "conspiracy" or even "cooperation". Apr 8, 2022 at 16:24
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    A separate but linked Q&A on this case might be a good idea. Apr 8, 2022 at 17:20

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