On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Prager University, a nonprofit organization that produces short, educational videos from a conservative point of view, has filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google. The lawsuit alleges the tech giant is illegally censoring some of its content as part of a wider effort to silence conservative voices, the Journal said.
The lawsuit cites more than 50 PragerU videos which have either been “restricted” or “demonetized” by Google/YouTube, the organization said in a press release. The PragerU videos include one 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: “Why America Must Lead,” “The Ten Commandments: Do Not Murder,” “Why Did America Fight the Korean War,” and “The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians.”
In correspondence cited in the lawsuit, Google/YouTube made it clear that the censorship of certain videos was because they were deemed “inappropriate” for younger audiences.
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“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,” said PragerU founder Dennis Prager.
“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,” he added.
Currently, over 1.3 billion people use YouTube. Both Google and YouTube advertise the video streaming service 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. According to Google and YouTube: “voices matter.” YouTube claims 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.”
“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,” Prager concluded.
The 43-page complaint, which can be seen here, seeks, among other things, compensatory, special, and statutory damages, a civil penalty of $2,500 for each violation and an injunction requiring YouTube to “cease and desist from capriciously restricting, demonetizing, or otherwise censoring any content of PragerU videos uploaded to the YouTube” and “censoring or restricting speech based on their unfettered discretion or the
use or application of arbitrary, capricious, vague, unspecified, or subjective criteria guidelines…”
PragerU is not the only conservative outlet that has experienced censorship and demonetization by YouTube. A number of conservatives, including media analyst Mark Dice, Trump supporters Diamond and Silk and Paul Joseph Watson, have also seen their videos restricted and/or demonetized for the very same reasons. As a result, many have turned to sites like Patreon as a way to help make up for the loss of revenue.
Other conservative channels on YouTube have also faced routine censorship, including Legal Insurrection, which was suspended before being reinstated following coverage from Breitbart News.
PragerU’s lawsuit against YouTube won’t be a cakewalk, but if successful, it could open the door for similar lawsuits against social media sites that seem to discriminate based on political points of view.
YouTube, the Journal reported, “said it didn’t have immediate comment because it hadn’t yet reviewed the suit.”
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