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BART puts social media crackdown in 'uncharted' legal territory

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In San Francisco Monday, many protesters carried signs with comments such as, “I believe in free speech,” "Stop police brutality,” and “Protect Free Speech.”

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent a letter to BART officials demanding that the agency permanently prohibit the shutting off of cellphone service to thwart protests. The Federal Communications Commission issued a statement saying it is investigating the matter to assess “the important issues … including public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks.”

The criticism from First Amendment scholars has been fierce.

“The BART action to restrict free speech so that the actions of a few could be curtailed is not warranted,” says Rita Kirk, director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “In fact, the very medium they tried to curtail has been used in Great Britain to bring thugs to justice.

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