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Google May Face RICO, Defamation Lawsuits Due to SPLC Partnership, Lawyers Say

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In recent years, the far-Left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has faced a slew of lawsuits regarding its deceptive practice of branding mainstream conservative and Christian groups "hate groups" on par with the Ku Klux Klan. Google has decided to partner with the SPLC, even encouraging employees to work for the organization. Conservative lawyers told PJ Media this partnership may make the tech giant vulnerable to defamation and racketeering lawsuits.

This month, Fortune reported that Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, launched a program that will pay Google employees to do pro bono work for nonprofit groups for up to six months. The company aims to achieve 50,000 hours of pro bono work this year. Google.org names the SPLC as one of its partners for "inclusion." Google.org started funding the far-Left group in 2016, and has given the organization $250,000, specifically to fund a "total redesign of the Teaching Tolerance website."

"Teaching Tolerance," an SPLC project aimed at teachers for elementary, middle, and high schools across America, has referenced the SPLC's "hate map," endorsing the "hate group" labels, before and after Google.org funding. Even if Teaching Tolerance were distanced from the "hate group" smears, Google.org explicitly names the SPLC as the recipient of funding and the partner — which likely means Google employees can do pro bono work for the SPLC.

"It does appear that there's more than funding that is taking place between Google and the SPLC and other tech companies, to the point where there's interaction, potentially plotting, and the involvement of their so-called 'hate group' label that is designed for one reason — to destroy the opposition based on ideology," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told PJ Media. He said "it's plausible" Google may face RICO and defamation charges in future lawsuits.

"If I was Google's corporate counsel, I would be telling my board of directors that this is a very bad decision and they should not be involved with this organization," Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former in-house corporate counsel, told PJ Media.

"I think that opens them up to potential liability. If one of their organizations is working for the SPLC, when the SPLC is sued under defamation or a RICO suit, that could potentially bring Google into the lawsuit," von Spakovsky added.

Google did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

A growing number of individuals and organizations have filed lawsuits against the far-Left group in recent years. The Christian nonprofit Liberty Counsel led the charge in June 2017, accusing the charity navigation website GuideStar of violating consumer protection laws by using SPLC's false and defamatory labels. D. James Kennedy Ministries followed with a defamation suit in August of that year. Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz also filed a defamation suit, since the SPLC had branded him an "anti-Islamic extremist."

The SPLC settled with Nawaz last year, paying $3.375 million. After that settlement, Staver told PJ Media that about 60 different organizations were considering defamation lawsuits against the SPLC.

In December, attorney Glen Keith Allen filed a massive lawsuit, including defamation and charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

"RICO itself is not a violation of the law, it applies on top of and in addition to an underlying violation," Staver explained. Allen's lawsuit charged the SPLC and two employees with RICO counts involving mail fraud.

If a court rules the SPLC broke the law by sending fraudulent communication through the mail or on the internet, RICO comes into play if there is "also a conspiracy and an enterprise that is taking place among different people or organizations over a specific period of time," Staver explained. "RICO comes on top of [the penalties under the law] and triples the damages and requires recovery of attorney fees."

Earlier this month, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) filed a very specific RICO and wire fraud lawsuit against the SPLC, specifically for falsely branding CIS a "hate group," although CIS did not fit the far-Left group's definition of a "hate group."

Teaching Tolerance has specifically attacked CIS as unreliable, and the SPLC still includes CIS on its list and map of "hate groups." CIS did not respond to request for comment as to whether or not this liability could bring Google into its active lawsuit.

In 2012 that "hate map" inspired a terrorist attack against the Family Research Council (FRC). While the SPLC condemned the attack, it did not remove FRC from the list of "hate groups" or the "hate map."

In 2017 the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the congressional baseball game shooting had "liked" the SPLC on Facebook. The far-Left group had attacked Scalise multiple times.

On multiple occasions, former spokesman Mark Potok explained that the SPLC's "aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them."

Even so, many media outlets cite the far-Left group's "hate group" list as accurate, and tech companies have decided to blacklist conservative organizations on the list. The Ruth Institute lost its donation processing company. Amazon.com's charity organization, Amazon Smile, dropped D. James Kennedy Ministries and Alliance Defending Freedom. Patreon booted Robert Spencer from its platform.

As for Google itself, PragerU has filed a lawsuit against Google and YouTube for censoring and demonetizing their videos. YouTube considers the SPLC a "trusted flagger" on this Google platform. Terrified conservative employees at Silicon Valley firms engage in self-censorship, Google Leftists are reportedly targeting conservative employees, and last year dissenting Facebook employees unmasked the liberal "political monoculture" at that company.

Hans von Spakovsky, the Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow, noted that "there are a lot of folks complaining that Google is biased against conservative individuals." Referring to the SPLC's relationship with Google.org, he said "this kind of a close relationship with this particular organization is not going to help Google in that claim."

Even if Google's relationship with the SPLC does not ensnare the tech giant in defamation and RICO lawsuits, it remains a liability nonetheless. It's high time the tech giant end its support for this far-Left smear group.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.