Dennis Prager Sues YouTube For Filtering His Videos In A Way He Doesn't Like
from the prageru-tube dept
Dennis Prager is the rather affable conservative radio host and commentator whose chief skill appears to be in presenting laughably simple answers to immeasurably complex questions. Whatever your politics, it should be fairly clear that he’s of a certain mold that tends to see political opponent boogeymen around every corner, hiding under his bed, and defiling his breakfast cereal. Those types exist on both sides of the aisle, of course, but it’s important to understand Prager’s paranoia when digesting his lawsuit against YouTube over how the site is filtering the videos his organization creates.
PragerU was founded in 2011 by Dennis Prager, a prominent conservative writer and radio talk show host. The organization is a nonprofit that espouses conservative viewpoints on various issues by means of short, animated videos, which it posts on its own website, as well as its YouTube channel.
From the filing itself:
Google/YouTube have represented that their platforms and services are intended to effectuate the exercise free speech among the public. As applied to PragerU, 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.
Let’s get the easy part of this out of the way. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act clearly outlines that YouTube is not to be punished for its attempt to filter content. The most relevant section is:
(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2)Civil liabilityNo provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A)any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).
That pretty clearly states that service providers can filter as they please and are not open to retribution from those using their platforms who don’t care for how the filtering is being done. Making the First Amendment claims, in light of that, is a strategy likely without much purchase.
But the filing is even more frustrating than that. In typical Prager fashion, the case against YouTube is laid out as one of a liberal conspiracy against a conservative non-profit. Reading through most of the filing, you would be forgiven for thinking that YouTube had an army of folks manning computers manually censoring nothing but conservative speech, almost certainly with copies of Karl Marx’s greatest hits on the desk next to them. But then the filing notes, apparently as evidence for its claims:
PragerU is not the first video blogger or “vlogger” to be discriminated against by Google/YouTube because of the speaker’s perceived identity. On March 19, 2017, Google/YouTube publicly admitted that they improperly censored videos using their restricted mode filtering that were posted or produced by members of the LGBTQ community based on the identity and orientation of the speaker rather than the content of the video. In response to complaints from the LGBTQ community and other civil rights critics, Google/YouTube removed all restricted filtering on videos posted or produced by LGBTQ members and groups, and changed their policy, filtering algorithm, and manual review policies to ensure that videos posted by LGBTQ vloggers were not being censored solely because of the identity of the speaker.
While Prager makes much of how YouTube lifted the restrictions on the LGBTQ content, what he’s actually demonstrating is the truth: YouTube sucks at filtering its content. While Prager has no First Amendment right to YouTube’s soapbox, his own filing has stumbled upon the real problem and the likely reason that YouTube has been flagging some of his videos: filtering correctly is hard, if not impossible. Of course it is, particularly for YouTube, which deals with hours of content uploaded every minute. Who would expect any filtering mechanism put in place to not have collateral damage?
The truth is likely that the YouTube folks responding to complaints about filter-mishaps are quite busy because the site isn’t very good at filtering content. And, yes, it sucks that Prager’s content has these filtering restrictions put on them. Whatever you think of the man, his videos are not obscene.
But First Amendment violations and the output of a great liberal conspiracy they are not.