“Watch any one of our videos and you’ll immediately realize that Google/YouTube censorship is entirely ideologically driven,” PragerU founder Dennis Prager said in a statement. “For the record, our videos are presented by some of the finest minds in the Western world, including four Pulitzer Prize winners, former prime ministers, and professors from the most prestigious universities in America.”
“They are engaging in an arbitrary and capricious use of their ‘restricted mode’ and ‘demonetization’ to restrict non-left political thought,” Prager said of YouTube and Google. “Their censorship is profoundly damaging because Google and YouTube own and control the largest forum for public participation in video-based speech in not only California, but the United States, and the world.”
PJMedia reports PragerU staff members initially discovered the alleged censorship in July 2016, the lawsuit explains. Since then, “Google/YouTube have failed to offer any reasonable or consistent explanation for why the content of those videos is subject to restricted content filtering.”
PragerU contacted its Google/YouTube account manager around August 5 to request 16 of its videos that were placed in the age-restricted content list, be removed from said list.
“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,” Google/YouTube responded via email.
In September, PragerU requested more details on the “specific actions” it would need to take to remove 21 videos that were on the list at the time. Google, however, gave no more details in an email sent to PragerU that very day.
“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,” the email read.
PragerU asked for more details again in October but Google responded with the same attitude, stating: “At this time the videos have been algorithmically included in Restricted Mode and no manual action was needed.”
PragerU was forced to request a “hate speech” video by a pro-Israeli Muslim activist be unrestricted, despite the fact the content was focused on how to resist hatred and anti-Semitism.
PragerU warned Google/YouTube that if the video was not removed from the restricted list, it would amount to “de facto censorship” that “will prevent hundreds of thousands, or millions of people from hearing [the video’s] valuable message.”
In July 2017, Google/YouTube explained to PragerU that they could not figure out if the videos were restricted due to an automated algorithm or manual review. PragerU responded by sending a list of their videos that had been restricted, and a comparative list of the same subjects from liberal perspectives that avoided being placed on the list.
Google/YouTube admitted on October 12, 2017, that “human reviews” had been conducted on PragerU videos, suggesting that the restrictions and demonetization of the videos was the result of a conscious decision by employees, rather than an error in the algorithm. Again, Google/YouTube refused to explain why the videos had been targeted.
“Google and YouTube use restricted mode filtering not to protect younger or sensitive viewers from ‘inappropriate’ video content, but as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU,” Eric George of Browne George Ross, the firm representing PragerU, said in a statement. “Google and YouTube do this not because they have identified video content that violates their guidelines or is otherwise inappropriate for younger viewers, but because PragerU is a conservative nonprofit organization that is associated with and espouses the views of leading conservative speakers and scholars.”
Google/YouTube temporarily shut down PragerU’s ad grants account for six days earlier this month. An ad grants account provides stipends to nonprofit organizations such as PragerU. When PragerU asked Google/YouTube to reconsider the decision, the company responded, “No chance.”
Former California Governor Pete Wilson, who also works for Browne George Ross, said the actions of Google and YouTube amount to unlawful discrimination.
Despite Google claiming “voices matter,” with YouTube stating it is “committed to fostering a community where everyone’s voice can be heard,” the company’s policy on speech contradicts its claim.
In March Google/YouTube admitted to censoring LGBT videos by using the restricted mode filtering. The censorship was based on the identity and orientation of the speaker, rather than the message that was being delivered.
Just like in that case, PragerU argues “This is speech discrimination plain and simple: censorship based entirely on the perceived identity and political viewpoint of the speaker not on the content of the speech.”
“Google/YouTube use their restricted mode filtering not to protect younger or sensitive viewers from ‘inappropriate’ video content, but as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU,” the PragerU lawsuit states while alleging Google/YouTube chose to do this “because PragerU is a conservative nonprofit organization that is associated with and espouses the views of leading conservative speakers.”
This is not a left/right issue. It is a free speech issue, which is why prominent liberals, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, are supporting our lawsuit,” Prager concluded.
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