Prager University (PragerU) filed suit in the U.S. District Court to stop Google and YouTube from unlawfully censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech.
The lawsuit cites more than 50 PragerU videos which have either been “restricted” or “demonetized” by Google/YouTube. The PragerU videos cover a range subjects presenting a conservative point of view, including a video by noted Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on the founding of Israel.
PragerU previously compiled a complete list of their restricted videos here, which includes titles, such as:
- “Why America Must Lead,”
- “The Ten Commandments: Do Not Murder,”
- “Why Did America Fight the Korean War,”
- “The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians.”
In correspondence cited in the filing, Google/YouTube made it clear that the censorship of certain videos was because they were deemed “inappropriate” for younger audiences.
The lawsuit was filed in Oct. 26, 2017, however PragerU has recently asked a judge for a prelimary injunction seeking to have the restriction lifted off of his videos that have been censored due to liberal bias.
Google’s statement on the lawsuit:
“YouTube is an open platform and, to make it a great place for users, creators and advertisers, we provide different choices and settings. Restricted Mode is an optional feature used by a small subset of users to filter out videos that may include sensitive or mature content. Giving viewers the choice to opt in to a more restricted experience is not censorship. In fact, this is exactly the type of tool that Congress has encouraged online services to provide for parents and others interested in a more family-friendly experience online.”
However, Google/YouTube has control over which content is filtered by “Restricted Mode” as well as monetizing of videos. PargerU’s videos do not contain any nudity, profanity, or any otherwise “mature” content affirms PragerU Chief Executive Officer Marissa Streit.
Streit continued with, “It’s clear that someone doesn’t like what we teach and so they intend on stopping us from teaching it. Can you imagine what the world would look like if Google is allowed to continue to arbitrarily censor ideas they simply don’t agree with?”
Founder, Dennis Prager stated in a press release:
“Watch any one of our videos and you’ll immediately realize that Google/YouTube censorship is entirely ideologically driven. For the record, our videos are presented by some of the finest minds in the Western world, including four Pulitzer Prize winners, former prime ministers, and professors from the most prestigious universities in America.”
Mr. Prager added, “They are engaging in an arbitrary and capricious use of their ‘restricted mode’ and ‘demonetization’ to restrict non-left political thought. Their censorship is profoundly damaging because Google and YouTube own and control the largest forum for public participation in video-based speech in not only California, but the United States, and the world.”
The total number of people who currently use YouTube exceeds 1.3 billion people. Google and YouTube advertise YouTube to the public as a forum intended to defend and protect free speech where members of the general public may express and exchange their ideas. They have represented that their platforms and services are intended to effectuate the exercise of free speech among the public.
The PragerU lawsuit is not the only ideological lawsuit Google faces. James Damore Sues Google – White Male Discrimination.
Just as PragerU was filing a bid for an injunction, YouTube’s parent company, Google, was moving to dismiss the case. Google argues that Prager’s claims are barred by Section 230 of the Communications Act as well as the First Amendment. The Act provides some immunity for online service providers who are publishing third-party content.
“Plaintiff’s claims seek to do exactly what Section 230(c)(1) forbids: impose liability on YouTube as a publisher of Plaintiff’s videos,” states the motion to dismiss (read here). “YouTube’s choices about whether to classify videos as ‘mature’ or otherwise sensitive, and whether ads should be displayed alongside a given video, all fall squarely within the functions protected under Section 230.”
Prager’s injunction brief (read here) instead argues that the Communications Act cannot preempt federal constitutional claims like a violation of the First Amendment.
According to Google and YouTube: “voices matter.” YouTube states that it is “committed to fostering a community where everyone’s voice can be heard.”
“However,” said Eric George of Browne George Ross, the firm representing PragerU, “Google and YouTube use restricted mode filtering not to protect younger or sensitive viewers from ‘inappropriate’ video content, but as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU. Google and YouTube do this not because they have identified video content that violates their guidelines or is otherwise inappropriate for younger viewers, but because PragerU is a conservative nonprofit organization that is associated with and espouses the views of leading conservative speakers and scholars.”
Former California Governor Pete Wilson, siding with PragerU, said “This is speech discrimination plain and simple, censorship based entirely on unspecified ideological objection to the message or on the perceived identity and political viewpoint of the speaker.”
Dennis Prager concluded the lawsuit press release by saying, “This is not a left/right issue. It is a free speech issue, which is why prominent liberals, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, are supporting our lawsuit.”.
The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California is available here.