A conservative columnist, author and talk-radio host whose columns appear on the pages of WND has filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its owner, Google, for imposing “a political gag mechanism” on his work.
YouTube declined to respond to a request from WND for comment.
The complaint expresses outrage that the online giants “use their restricted mode filtering not to protect younger or sensitive viewers from ‘inappropriate’ video content, but as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”
Prager University, founded by Prager, is “a conservative nonprofit digital media organization that is associated with and presents the views of leading conservative experts on current and historical events.”
Liberty Counsel explains the organization produces short videos viewed by millions that are “broadly based on Judeo-Christian values and conservative thought.”
But the online companies repeatedly have censored the videos, including features on Israel, the history of the Korean War, legal decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, foreign affairs and male-female differences.
“YouTube has admitted that the PragerU videos have been censored by individual human review and not accidentally censored by an algorithm. While PragerU videos have been censored, the same subject matters posted by liberal groups have not been censored,” Liberty Counsel explained.
The complaint explains that identical videos, uploaded by others, are allowed, while that same content uploaded by PragerU is restricted.
“The intent of the lawsuit is ‘to stop Google/YouTube from unlawfully censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech solely because of PragerU’s political identity and viewpoint as a non-profit that espouses conservative views on current and historical events,” Liberty Counsel said.
“Google/YouTube have been discriminating and censoring, and continue to discriminate and censor educational videos uploaded or posted to the YouTube platform through the arbitrary and capricious use of ‘restricted mode’ and ‘demonetization’ viewer restriction filters that purportedly are intended to prohibit or limit access of ‘inappropriate’ content to prospective public viewers based on certain viewer characteristics, including the age of the viewer,” the organization explained.
The complaint alleges violations of a number of laws and even includes a free speech claim, because while they are private companies and generally not limited by constitutional provisions on speech, California is one of the few states where courts have ruled even private shopping malls must abide by state constitutional free speech provisions.
“There are many instances of political bias by Google and YouTube, which have repeatedly censored conservative or Judeo-Christian viewpoints,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “Even Alan Dershowitz was censored in a PragerU video because his subject matter contained a pro-Israel message.
“The fact that YouTube eventually removed the block after public outcry does not undo the pervasive problem of censorship. The PragerU suit will not be the last suit on this issue. Unless the monopolistic social media super highways act more responsibly to allow competing viewpoints, there will be a flood of litigation and perhaps even federal regulation to address these abuses,” said Staver.
The complaint in U.S. District Court in California seeks a declaratory judgment that the practices violate the Constitution, an injunction so that YouTube halts its practices, as well as compensatory, special and statutory damages, plus a civil penalty of $2,500 for each violation.
In addition to violations of the state and U.S. constitutions, the complaint claims violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Lanham Act and other laws.
“Defendants’ wrongful actions were taken with oppression, fraud and/or malice. PragerU has repeatedly attempted to remedy the situation, and defendants have repeatedly refused to unrestrict or re-monetize plaintiff’s videos,” says the complaint.
It states that Prager “has suffered, and continues to suffer, immediate and irreparable injury in fact, including lost income, reduced viewership, and damage to brand, reputation, and goodwill, for which there exists no adequate remedy at law.”
The complaint said the problem is illustrated by YouTube’s decision to censor videos from PragerU called “Why Isn’t Communism as Hated as Nazism?” and “What’s Holding the Arab World Back?”
The company cited references to “hate,” “terrorism” and “genocide.”
“But to the extent that Google/YouTube’s policy is to restrict all videos that mention the words ‘hate,’ ‘terrorism,’ or ‘genocide,’ or any video that mentions those topics, then Google/YouTube need to explain why thousands of videos that use or mention those terms are not also restricted,” it challenges.
The complaint explains that the censorship first was discovered in July 2016, and since then Prager has been corresponding with the companies to get the problems fixed.
“Instead, Google/YouTube have repeatedly stated that Google/YouTube’s automatice filtering search algorithm and their ‘review teams’ have flagged some unspecified or unidentified video content as ‘inappropriate.’ This is telling because despite the existence of purported guidelines and criteria utilized by both the algorithm and rview teams, Google/YouTube’s censoring criteria are intentionally vague, undefined and broad.”