Why Is YouTube Protecting the Southern Poverty Law Center?

Last week, Reason's libertarian commentator John Stossel tweeted about YouTube restricting his videos, one on socialism and one on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left smear group that uses its history suing the Ku Klux Klan to "mortally embarrass" conservative and Christian organizations. YouTube has also restricted many videos from Prager University, including one exposing the SPLC. These videos are off-limits to children and others who use YouTube in restricted mode.

"YouTube has restricted my video that points out how the Southern Poverty Law Center has become a money grabbing slander machine," Stossel tweeted. "Could it be restricted because YouTube uses the Center’s guideline to police its content?! Seems like a conflict of interest."

PJ Media reached out to Google, YouTube's parent company, for comment, but the company did not respond by press time.

Founded in 1971, the SPLC represented death row inmates and free speech cases but gained a national reputation for bankrupting KKK groups in the 1980s. After defeating the KKK, the SPLC expanded its strategy to the more nebulous "hate groups." The SPLC's list of "hate groups" — which still includes some allegedly KKK-affiliated organizations — has grown nearly every year, and the organization breathlessly reports a "rising tide of hate," scaring donors and pressuring Big Tech to blacklist its political opponents. Amazon has kicked "hate groups" off of its charity donation service. Eventbrite has blacklisted America's premier national security grassroots organization, ACT for America.

The "hate group" accusation inspired a gunman to target the conservative Christian Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Convicted of terrorism, he confessed that he intended to shoot everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich by their heads.

In March, the SPLC lost its co-founder, president, legal director, and a major board member amid a sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal. Amid this scandal, a former staffer came clean about being part of a "con," and revealed the "hate group" accusations to be a cynical fundraising scheme — as well as a tool to silence political opponents.

After the SPLC smeared a Muslim reformer as an "anti-Islamic extremist," the organization settled his defamation lawsuit by paying $3.375 million. The SPLC faces many lawsuits, and one of them has reached the discovery process, threatening to unearth the smear factory's secrets.

Despite all this, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified that YouTube considers the SPLC a "trusted flagger." A full 90 percent of political donations from employees of Alphabet (Google's parent company) have gone to Democrats since 2004. In the 2018 cycle, Alphabet employees contributed 96 percent to Democrats.

In a Lincoln Network survey published early this year, a self-described liberal at an unidentified Big-Tech company warned that "there are no clear boundaries set by the organization to prevent ideological bias. Third parties that used to be respected for setting such boundaries, like the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation], are no longer respected, while partisan organizations like ADL [Anti-Defamation League] and SPLC (who I believe push a political agenda) are considered by most employees to be objective."

Perhaps Google, Amazon, and Eventbrite kowtow to the SPLC's blacklisting because the left-leaning Silicon Valley agrees with the SPLC's demonizing of conservatives. It is quite plausible that YouTube is protecting the smear group in order to abet its attacks on conservatives.

"It doesn’t surprise us that YouTube, which uses the SPLC to police videos, would restrict a video that is critical of the SPLC," Michael Ricci, a spokesman for John Stossel, told PJ Media. Ricci noted that the SPLC video has been restricted from close to the time it was posted in January 2018. The video has also been demonetized — YouTube does not allow Reason to run ads on the video.

Stossel drew attention to the restriction of this video after getting a recent notice that YouTube was restricting an old video on socialism.

Stossel tweeted, "[I] hate that socialists get YouTube to restrict my videos. Got this email: 'Your video Socialism Fails Every Time was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it may not be suitable for all viewers...'"

If socialists flagged Stossel's video on socialism, did a certain "trusted flagger" complain about his video exposing the SPLC?

In the video, the Reason commentator interviewed notorious "hate group" leaders like the Ruth Institute's Jennifer Roback Morse. The SPLC has accused the Ruth Institute of being an "anti-LGBT hate group" because it quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church in opposing same-sex marriage. The Ruth Institute lost its credit-card processing company thanks to the SPLC's accusation.

Yet Morse told Stossel, "I like gay people. I have no problem with gay people." What a hater!

"Crying hate brings in lots of money," Stossel says in the restricted video. He noted that the SPLC almost exclusively attacks conservative "hate," refusing to condemn antifa, "the hate group that beats up people on the right."

Stossel's experience should sound familiar. Prager University has sued Google/YouTube for discrimination against conservative speakers. YouTube has restricted dozens of PragerU videos, claiming the educational messages are unfit for children.

"Ever since we filed our lawsuit against them, YouTube has continued to increase the amount of PragerU videos that they restrict. It's reached the point of absurdity as there are now over 200 of our videos restricted, including five videos on the 10 Commandments. We're fighters at PragerU and we will never stop fighting for free speech," Craig Strazzeri, chief marketing officer for PragerU, told PJ Media on Tuesday.

Like Stossel, PragerU found its video exposing the SPLC restricted on YouTube.

"Shutting down people you don’t agree with is about as un-American as you can get," Philanthropy Roundtable Vice President Karl Zinsmeister says in the video. "Rigorous debate, honest discussion, and open exchange of ideas — that’s the American way."

His video exposes the SPLC's strategy of silencing debate by demonizing those who dissent from its liberal worldview. "The SPLC’s hate list has become a weapon for taking individuals and groups they disagree with and tarring them with ugly associations," he says.

Zinsmeister cited former SPLC spokesman Mark Potok, who said, "I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them."

"Instead of reducing hate and violence, the SPLC’s name-calling directly incites it," the Philanthropy Roundtable VP adds. "In March 2017, Charles Murray was trying to discuss his acclaimed book Coming Apart at Middlebury College … enflamed by the SPLC’s labeling of him as a racist." He also references the FRC shooting: "While promoting itself as a monitor of 'hate groups,' the SPLC has become a fomenter of hate."

It seems more than a little ironic that YouTube would restrict a video advocating for free speech. Perhaps Google is adopting the very SPLC tactics Zinsmeister rightly condemns. PragerU's lawsuits aim to prove just that.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.