Round 2: PragerU Lawsuit Claims Google, YouTube Violated Calif. Law on Free Speech, Discrimination
On Tuesday, the conservative video nonprofit PragerU filed a new lawsuit against Google and YouTube in Santa Clara, Calif. superior court, to bring state charges against Google and YouTube in addition to the federal case currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Both PragerU and Google are based in California.
"YouTube was built on the backs of users like PragerU who were promised 'give us your videos because we are a 'public forum,' a place where the public is invited to engage in 'freedom of expression' and where everyone is 'treated equally,'" PragerU attorney Peter Obstler declared in a statement. "We expect that to be the truth."
Obstler noted that PragerU originally filed a lawsuit with two federal claims and five state claims under California law. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the state law claims without prejudice, encouraging the nonprofit to bring them up in state law. "Today we've come full circle by filing a state law action, as the judge requested we do, in state court to litigate those issues there."
This makes the PragerU lawsuit against Google and YouTube a "two-track litigation."
In the California case, PragerU brought four separate claims against Google and YouTube: that the companies violated the free speech protections of Article 1 Section 2 of the California Constitution; that they violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act by engaging in political and viewpoint discrimination against PragerU; that they violated the state's business code through unfair competition; and that they breached the implied terms of their contract.
YouTube has placed at least 80 PragerU videos off limits to users in restricted mode, and it has pulled ads from at least 43 videos, demonetizing them. The video nonprofit has found similar videos on similar topics which have not been restricted or demonetized. In some cases, restricted PragerU video content has been reposted by other accounts and the resulting videos have not been restricted.
"As of the date of filing of this lawsuit, Google/YouTube have provided no rational or reasonable lawful basis to restrict PragerU’s content while allowing other users or YouTube’s own content on the same topics to go unrestricted, including content that contains graphic violence, hate speech, profanity, or otherwise violates Defendants’ regulations," the lawsuit alleges.
The clear motivation, PragerU argues, is political animus against conservative speakers. The censorship motivated by this bias harms users and gives Google an unfair advantage in business.
"Google/YouTube use these restrictions to unlawfully discriminate against users like PragerU in order to further Defendants' ideological whims and financial interests and placate their preferred content provider partners, advertisers, senior management, and others who have an animus-based ideological or financial interest in YouTube," the lawsuit alleges.