Court Rules YouTube Does Not Illegally Censor Conservative Content

Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown said that despite YouTube's ubiquity as a platform, it was still a private forum, not a 'state actor' that could be regulated by the First Amendment.
Court Rules YouTube Does Not Illegally Censor Conservative Content
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Contributing Editor PC Mag UK
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This story originally appeared on PC Mag

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle has upheld a ruling that Google’s video sharing platform YouTube does not illegally censor conservative content.

As reported by Reuters, a lawsuit against Google was brought by Prager University, a conservative non-profit organization run by talk show host Dennis Prager. “PragerU” uploads a number of YouTube videos on conservative talking points, with titles including “The Market Will Set You Free,” “Is The National Anthem Racist?” and “White Leftists Act Like Racists.”

PragerU claimed that YouTube opposed its political views and therefore tagged a number of videos talking about abortion, gun rights, and Islam under its “Restricted Mode,” which Google describes as a setting that “help[s] screen out potentially mature content that you may prefer not to see.” PragerU also says YouTube blocked third parties from advertising on the videos.

The court decided that PragerU did not have a case, voting 3-0 against the organization. Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown said YouTube was a private forum and therefore was not a “state actor” under the regulations of the First Amendment despite the video platform’s near-dominance of the marketplace or its “ubiquity.” 

PraguerU also submitted a false advertising claim against YouTube, but McKeown struck it down, saying that YouTube’s commitment to free speech in statements like “everyone deserves to have a voice, and [the] world is a better place when we listen, share and build community through our stories” were simply opinions.

Google spokesman Farshad Shadloo said the company’s products “are not politically biased,” and the decision “vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”

Peter Obstler, a lawyer for PragerU, said the decision was “very limited,” and decided only “based on the facts alleged in this case.”

Courts have consistently found that large tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter do not qualify for regulation under the First Amendment, but that has not stopped governments and lawmakers examining them for perceived political bias.

Last year, President Trump proposed an executive order called "Protecting Americans from Online Censorship" which would force companies to act “neutrally” when curating content from its users. At Congress, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was also asked about Google’s perceived bias when it was found that Googling the word "idiot" resulted in image results of President Trump. That was the result of ‘Googlebombing,’ a way of manipulating Google search results that has been around for over 15 years, something the lawmakers were apparently unaware of.

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