The Washington area’s public transit agency is vowing to “vigorously defend” its advertising guidelines after the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against it for refusing to display advertisements promoting Milo Yiannopoulos’ book.
“In 2015 WMATA’s board of directors changed its advertising forum to a non-public forum and adopted commercial advertising guidelines that prohibit issue-oriented ads, including political, religious and advocacy ads,” the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority said. “WMATA intends to vigorously defend its commercial advertising guidelines, which are reasonable and viewpoint-neutral.”
The ACLU contends that parts of the policy violate the First Amendment by discriminating against particular ads and advertisers deemed controversial by WMATA officials.
The policy was instituted in 2015 after a set of anti-Muslim advertisements sparked controversy. The guidelines ban ads “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions,” ads that “support or oppose an industry position or industry goal without any direct commercial benefit to the advertiser,” and ads “intended to influence public policy,” among others.