Former California Gov. Pete Wilson and his colleagues at Browne George Ross have filed a First Amendment lawsuit claiming YouTube and Google are discriminating against videos that offer conservative commentary on current and historical events.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf or Prager University, a nonprofit digital media outfit co-founded by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager. PragerU claims YouTube and its officials have age-restricted some of its videos for no reason, and prevented them from generating ad revenue.
Google and YouTube representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reach by phone Tuesday morning, Wilson said he’s heard for some time that Google and YouTube suppress conservative speech on the internet and that the lawsuit “is the right case at the right time.”
Wilson said the case has parallels to a topic Prager champions, the dearth of conservative voices on U.S. college campuses.
“YouTube has been denying access to its platform which is infinitely greater,” Wilson said.
The suit claims YouTube essentially functions as a public forum for video content on the web, and that by placing ad and age restrictions on PragerU content, the site assumed ”an exclusively and traditionally public function by regulating free speech within a public forum.”
“PragerU has repeatedly asked what it could do differently, or how it could change its videos so that they could be unrestricted or re-monetized, but Google/YouTube have never meaningfully answered those questions,” wrote the Brown George Ross lawyers, including San Francisco litigator Peter Obstler.
The complaint points out that YouTube publicly admitted in March that it improperly censored videos posted or produced by members of the LGBTQ community based on the orientation of the speaker rather than the content of the video. PragerU claims that it was rebuffed by YouTube officials after asking for a similar review to see if its videos were censored inappropriately.
The complaint includes a large selection of PragerU videos that have been restricted along with other videos on the same topic from other accounts which have not. The suit also points out that 10 videos that were created by PragerU that have been copied and posted by other YouTube users have not been tagged with the same restrictions as the originals posted by PragerU.
“When compared with the litany of unrestricted videos posted by other speakers that contain similar or identical content and differ only in the perspective or identity of the speaker, Google/YouTube’s censorship of PragerU videos smacks of discrimination and animus arising solely from the political identity and perspective of its speakers, some of whom are identified with and espouse views and analysis that are considered to be ‘conservative’ on the American political spectrum,” PragerU’s lawyers wrote.
The lawsuit claims that YouTube and Google have violated PragerU’s First Amendment rights as well as the more expansive free speech rights afforded under California’s state constitution. PragerU also claims that YouTube’s actions have violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and Business and Professions Code.