Judge upholds Metro’s decision to dump ads by right-wing provocateur — for now

WASHINGTON — Metro will not immediately be forced to repost ads for the book written by a former Breitbart provocateur, a federal judge ruled over the weekend.

This is the first decision in the case since it was filed last August.

Milo Yiannopolous, who resigned from Breitbart last year after comments he made about pedophilia emerged and was also banned from Twitter after a series of tweets he sent during a racist campaign against actress Leslie Jones, had sued Metro last year when the transit agency pulled down ads for his self-published book following rider complaints.

His request for a preliminary injunction requiring Metro to put the ads back up in stations was “insufficiently supported” by evidence that he is likely to win the broader case or that Metro’s removal of the ads caused irreparable harm, U. S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in an opinion Saturday.

“WMATA reasonably concluded that Milo Worldwide’s advertisements violated WMATA’s prohibition on advertisements intended to influence public policy,” Chutkan wrote. “WMATA therefore acted reasonably in excluding those advertisements, in view of its stated objective to reduce community and employee opposition, to diminish security risks, and to avoid vandalism and the burdens of administrative review.”

Metro has said the ads should never have been accepted in the first place under its guidelines barring ads about issues where there are varying opinions, but the company that runs Metro’s ads failed to flag these book ads for the transit agency before posting them in late June 2017.

Riders raised concerns about the ads, which triggered a review.

Yiannopolous self-published the book after Simon and Schuster canceled a book deal over his views.

Yiannopolous’s case against Metro is a piece of a broader challenge against Metro’s advertising restrictions backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Carafem, an abortion and family planning provider, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are other plaintiffs in the case, which can move forward despite this weekend’s ruling. The underlying case aims to get a number of specific parts of Metro’s 2015 advertising guidelines thrown out as unconstitutional.

Metro adopted the blanket ban on issue-oriented advertising and the related regulations in 2015 after an anti-Muslim activist attempted to place ads depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The ACLU argues that the ban is so vague and broad that it is impossible to administer fairly and consistently.

If courts eventually agree with that position, and find the ban violates the First Amendment, much of the advertising guidelines could be thrown out.

That would force Metro to accept ads like those from Yiannopolous for his book; from PETA urging people to eat vegetarian; or from Carafem promoting a “10-week-after-pill.”

This challenge is separate from one filed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington specifically focused on the religious restrictions in Metro’s ad policies.

Part of that case was argued last week before a three-judge appeals court panel, after a different lower court judge had rejected the church’s request in December to force Metro to immediately run its Christmas-season ads.

 

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