PragerU Faces Off With YouTube in California State Suit Over Free Speech

PragerU Faces Off With YouTube in California State Suit Over Free Speech
A YouTube sign is seen at YouTube's corporate headquarters in San Bruno, California on April 03, 2018. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
Ian Henderson

In the midst of a longstanding dispute, Prager University, a conservative non-profit organization that makes videos on political, economic, and philosophical topics aimed at high school and college students, will face Google-owned YouTube in court on Oct. 25.

Co-founded by radio talk show host and writer Dennis Prager, PragerU 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.

In October 2017, PragerU filed a federal lawsuit against Google and YouTube, claiming at the time that at least 37 of its videos were unfairly demonetized or flagged as inappropriate and could not be viewed if the user was not logged in or was in age-restricted mode.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh dismissed the case on March 26, 2018, saying that as a private company, Google has the right to control the content on its platforms. The federal case is now awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court.

In January, PragerU filed a California state suit against Google and YouTube for “continuing to unlawfully restrict and restrain speech and expression on the global social media and video sharing platform known as YouTube.”

Lawyers will present oral arguments on Friday in Prager University v. Google LLC to the Superior Court of the State of California in Santa Clara.

“We’re excited and we’re optimistic. We heard that we’re going to have hundreds of PragerU supporters attending the hearing in Santa Clara,” PragerU Chief Marketing Officer, Craig Strazzeri told The Epoch Times.

Strazzeri expressed his belief that PragerU has a compelling case for breach of contract by YouTube.

“We have the same contract that every other content creator has. Anyone who makes a YouTube channel signs the exact same contract and they treat us differently than they treat other people.” Strazzeri explained.

“We’ve found that for all of our restricted videos, there are videos on the exact same subject, some with the exact same title that are not restricted,” he said.

PragerU also asserts 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 addition to the above claims, PragerU is pressing a discrimination claim under the Unruh Act, arguing that YouTube is discriminating against them for their political viewpoints.

Strazzeri said that Google and YouTube cannot legally claim to be a public forum and a publisher simultaneously. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” that publishes information provided by third-party users.

Strazzerri explained that YouTube has also not provided an adequate explanation for age-restricting PragerU content, which is aimed at high school and college students, saying that the videos do not contain sex, violence, profanity or anything that would warrant an age restriction.

“We’ve been asking for three years now and we’re still waiting for a rational or logical answer,” he said. “They have given us over the years a variety of reasons. Most of which are our videos break the community guidelines. When we ask which one, they usually point to a very broad or vague guideline such as ‘discussion of mature topics.'”

Kharan Batia, a Google executive who testified in front of the U.S. Senate in June the same day that Dennis Prager testified, said that YouTube flagged PragerU’s video on the Ten Commandments because it “contains references to murder … [and] potentially Nazism and World War Two, perhaps something along those lines.”

In an effort to bring awareness to the lawsuit, PragerU will drive a box truck covered in LED screens through Silicon Valley the day before the oral arguments.

“The truck’s screens will play the PragerU videos that YouTube restricts to bring awareness to Friday’s opening arguments in its California state lawsuit against Google and YouTube,” read a press release by PragerU.

The truck will begin its trip at UC Berkeley in the morning and will travel through the Bay area, making stops at several tech company headquarters on the way to its final destination, the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara.

After being demonetized by YouTube, a number of content creators have begun making channels on other video sharing sites such as Daily Motion and BitChute. Strazzeri says that while PragerU is always looking for other outlets to share their content, YouTube is the dominant platform for video sharing, and they won’t be pressured to leave.

“[Leaving] is exactly what they want you to do. They want us to go to an echo chamber on another platform that’s just for conservatives. We don’t want to reach just conservatives. We want to reach everybody and we’re not going to let them bully us into leaving their platform,” he said.