“Unfortunately, it’s not too surprising that a California judge would dismiss our free speech case, especially given how leftist this state is. We knew from the start this process might have twists and turns, setbacks and successes,” said PragerU CEO Marissa Streit in a Nov. 22 statement, “but we’re committed for the long haul to take the fight to protect free speech as far as it needs to go.”
Judge Brian Walsh of Santa Clara Superior Court had issued a tentative ruling on Oct. 25 rejecting PragerU’s claims that YouTube, and its parent company Google, continued to “unlawfully restrict and restrain speech and expression.” The tentative ruling was submitted before oral arguments were made that same day.
“Free speech is not just the fundamental [value], it’s the distinguishing value of America,” PragerU founder Dennis Prager recently told Jan Jekielek on The Epoch Times’s American Thought Leaders.
PragerU sued Google-owned YouTube after roughly 20 percent of its videos were placed on “restricted mode” for inappropriate content, as well as limiting its ad revenue.
“Prager contends that ‘YouTube is the cyber equivalent of a town square where citizens exchange ideas on matters of public interest’ and that defendants have opened their platform to the public by advertising its use for this purpose,” Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian C. Walsh wrote in his ruling. “However, Prager does not allege that it has been denied access to the core YouTube service.”
PragerU, which has 2.36 million subscribers on YouTube, has released hundreds of videos on topics ranging from politics, history, philosophy, religion, economics, and social issues. The platform is a non-profit and releases its content for free.
The organization claims that its free speech rights are being violated by YouTube, with more than 200 of their videos age-restricted by the video sharing service.
PragerU argues that YouTube is in violation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” that publishes information provided by third-party users.
It also claims that the platform is in violation of California’s Unruh Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and/or sexual orientation.
PragerU further claims that YouTube has committed consumer fraud, arguing the platform claims to be a public forum and a platform that is open for all and politically neutral, but is censoring content the company does not approve of.
In another setback against PragerU, Google appeared to remove PragerU’s mobile app from the Google Play store only one week after the tentative court decision.
“The PragerU mobile app has been completely removed from the Google Play store for apparently violating a technical privacy/policy guideline and for not meeting ‘disclosure guidelines,’” posted PragerU’s official Twitter account on Nov. 6. “Our app has been running all year and previously met all guidelines, what’s changed?”
However, the app later seemed to be available once again on the Google Play store. Whether the removal was related to PragerU’s lawsuit against YouTube and Google is unclear.
PragerU is also involved in another lawsuit with YouTube in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, also on free speech claims. Lawyers for PragerU appeared before the 9th Court back in September, arguing that Youtube is a public forum, thus under the scrutiny of the first amendment.
Judge Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, while expressing concern regarding PragerU’s videos being placed on restricted mode, expressed skepticism that it fell under the purview of the first amendment.
“If your representations are correct, it seems deeply disturbing that they put your stuff in the restricted area,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not sure that creates a First Amendment issue.”
Last month, Prager claimed in an interview with The Daily Signal, that if they lose their lawsuit, Google will be “given a green light to do all the censoring it wants.”