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PragerU Sues YouTube, Google for 'Intentional' Censorship of Conservative Speakers

On Monday, the conservative educational nonprofit Prager University filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google, for "intentional" censorship of conservative speakers. YouTube made more than fifteen percent of the organization's videos impossible to access in its "restrictive mode" — meant to protect younger and more sensitive viewers — and only slowly provided contradictory answers for why they were restricted.

"Watch any one of our videos and you'll immediately realize that Google/YouTube censorship is entirely ideologically driven," PragerU founder Dennis Prager declared in a statement on the lawsuit. He accused Google and YouTube of "engaging in an arbitrary and capricious use of their 'restricted mode' and 'demonetization' to restrict non-left political thought."

"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," former California Governor Pete Wilson, partner at the law firm Browne Georg Ross, said in the statement.

"Google and YouTube's use of restricted mode filtering to silence PragerU violates its fundamental First Amendment rights under both the California and United States Constitutions," Wilson added. "It constitutes unlawful discrimination under California law, is a misleading and unfair business practice, and breaches the warranty of good faith and fair dealing implied in Google and Youtube's own Terms of Use and 'Community Guidelines.'"

PragerU staff members first discovered the alleged censorship in July 2016, according to the lawsuit. Since that time, "Google/YouTube have failed to offer any reasonable or consistent explanation for why the content of those videos is subject to restricted content filtering."

Around August 5, PragerU contacted its Google/YouTube account manager to request 16 of its videos be removed from the age-restricted content list. Google/YouTube responded by email saying,"Our Product Specialist reviewed this, and at this time the videos are not safe enough for Restricted Mode so they will remain as is and were correctly classified."

In September, PragerU asked which "specific actions" it could take to remove the 21 videos then on the restricted content list. That very day, Google/YouTube responded, "As mentioned in the previous emails, at this time, your videos aren't appropriate for the younger audiences and hence they're not appearing in the restricted mode search results. I'd recommend you to go through our Community Guidelines and align them with your content to see where it has violated."

In October, PragerU once again requested "an explanation for why" their videos were restricted. The next month, Google/YouTube responded, "At this time the videos have been algorithmically included in Restricted Mode and no manual action was needed."

When YouTube restricted a video by a pro-Israeli Muslim activist as "hate speech," PragerU again requested it be unrestricted. The video was the opposite of hate speech, as it discussed how best to resist hatred and anti-Semitism. PragerU warned that failure to remove content restrictions would constitute "de facto censorship" that "will prevent hundreds of thousands, or millions of people from hearing [the video's] valuable message."