Prager University’s lawsuit against Google and YouTube uses their own statements to allege that the Big Tech Giant either used false to deceive its users, or violated the First Amendment by censoring American citizens in a public forum.
Prager University famously launched its lawsuit against Google and YouTube in 2017, after several of Prager’s videos were removed or placed in a “limited state”, a decision many believe was made because the conservative videos were critical of Islam.
In the latest court documents, Prager University cites an exchange between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and YouTube’s Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, Juniper Downs, from January of 2018.
In Congress, Cruz asked representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter whether they considered their platforms to be “public forums”, and while those representing Facebook and Twitter deftly handled the question while refusing to specifically refer to the platforms as public forums, Downs affirmed that Google and YouTube are a public forum, and specifically told Cruz he was was “correct” in his understanding of what this means.
The lawsuit uses this exchange to question whether Google is engaging in “state action” by censoring political speech on YouTube. If so, the private company would likely be in violation of the First Amendment, as restriction of speech and interpretation of the First Amendment are privileges left exclusively to the federal government.
While many critics believe Google and the other Big Tech Giants should be immune from censorship criticisms as private businesses, the legal team behind Prager University used Google’s own words and claims to create an image of a company stifling the First Amendment.
If this were not enough, the lawsuit also alleges that if Google and YouTube are not a public forum, then the company must be engaged in false advertising, as it lured in content creators with promises of neutrality:
Appellant has also alleged facts that Appellees are engaged in false advertising by inducing the public audience to use YouTube based on false promises of content neutrality and by falsely branding Appellant’s speech as offensive and inappropriate. Appellees unlawfully restrict and falsely brand Appellant’s speech based on animus and discriminatory reasons and for the purely anti-competitive purpose of boosting the audience reach and profitability of Appellees’ own content on YouTube at the expense of Appellant.
The lawsuit continues to paint a poor picture of YouTube, stating that the platform’s only defense against accusations of violating the First Amendment is that their former statements pledging to be a neutral public forum “simply do not matter because YouTube is both privately owned and too big to be held accountable under the First Amendment.”
Should the case proceed to oral arguments, Google and Prager University will find themselves before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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