Court Tosses Dennis Prager's Silly Lawsuit Against YouTube, Refuses His Request For Preliminary Injunction
from the insufficient-everything dept
You will recall that conservative commentator Dennis Prager sued YouTube late last year because he didn’t like how the site administered its “restricted mode” relating to several of his Prager University videos. The whole lawsuit was a mess to begin with, resting on Prager’s claims that YouTube violated federal and state laws by silencing his speech as a conservative and falsely advertising YouTube as place for free and open speech. At the same time that YouTube asked the court to toss this canard, Prager sought a preliminary injunction to keep YouTube from operating its own site as it saw fit. In support of its petition to dismiss the suit, YouTube’s Alice Wu offered the court a declaration that more or less showed every single one of Prager’s claims, especially his central claim of censorship of conservatives, to be as wrong as it possibly could be.
Now, mere weeks later, the court has agreed, penning a full-throated dismissal order that essentially takes Prager’s legal team to task for failing to make anything resembling a valid claim before the court. We’ll start with the court’s response to Prager’s First Amendment claims, which he makes by stating that YouTube is somehow a legally public forum, rather than a privately run website.
In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed because (1) the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), 47 U.S.C. § 230(c), bars all of Plaintiff’s causes of action except Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim, Mot. at 8–13; (2) the First Amendment bars all of Plaintiff’s causes of action, id. at 13–15; and (3) Plaintiff’s complaint fails to sufficiently plead any causes of action. Id. at 15–24. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed for failure to state any federal claims, and therefore declines to address Defendants’ other arguments for dismissal. The Court first addresses Plaintiff’s federal causes of action, and then addresses together Plaintiff’s state law claims.
And further, on the matter of whether YouTube is a public forum under the jurisdiction of the First Amendment.
Plaintiff does not point to any persuasive authority to support the notion that Defendants, by creating a “video-sharing website” and subsequently restricting access to certain videos that are uploaded on that website, Compl. ¶¶ 35, 41–46, have somehow engaged in one of the “very few” functions that were traditionally “exclusively reserved to the State.”
That “very few” functions precedent is backed by caselaw and the court points out that none of it applies to an entity like YouTube or to the services it provides. The court therefore says this is not a valid claim. The court then moves on to Prager’s claims that YouTube violated the Lanham Act by falsely advertising the site as a platform for open and diverse speech.
Although the section of Plaintiff’s complaint dedicated to the Lanham Act does not identify any specific representations made by Defendants, see Compl. ¶¶ 115–19, Plaintiff’s opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss points to a handful of discrete alleged instances of false advertising by Defendants. Opp. at 24. In particular, Plaintiff identifies (1) YouTube’s suggestion that some of Plaintiff’s videos are “inappropriate”; (2) YouTube’s policies and guidelines for regulating video content; (3) YouTube’s statement that “voices matter” and that YouTube is “committed to fostering a community where everyone’s voice can be heard”; (4) YouTube’s statement on its “Official Blog” that YouTube’s “mission” is to “give people a voice” in a “place to express yourself” and in a “community where everyone’s voice can be heard,” and that YouTube is “one of the largest and most diverse collections of self-expression in history” that gives “people opportunities to share their voice and talent no matter where they are from or what their age or point of view”; and (5) Defendants’ representations in the terms of the agreements between Plaintiff and Defendants that Defendants seek to “help you grow,” “discover what works best for you,” and “giv[e] you tools, insights and best practices for using your voice and videos.” Id. (citing Compl. ¶¶ 3, 11, 14, 28, 104, 112). The Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to support a Lanham Act false advertising claim based on any of these representations.
The ruling goes on to dismantle each of the specific claims Prager eventually made in opposition to YouTube’s motion to dismiss. Frankly, it’s a pretty thorough drubbing of whoever put together Prager’s legal documents and claims.
Finally, after all of that, the court summarily dismisses Prager’s claims under California state law because all of Prager’s other claims have been dismissed earlier in the order. When the plaintiff in a case like this fails in his or her federal claims completely, the federal court typically refuses to consider the state claims. The court explains that’s what it is doing in this order. It subsequently refuses to issue the preliminary injunction, making Prager the loser on every attempt he made before the court.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s federal causes of action with leave to amend, DISMISSES Plaintiff’s state law claims with leave to amend, and DENIES Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction without prejudice. Should Plaintiff elect to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified herein, Plaintiff shall do so within thirty days of this Order. Failure to meet this thirty-day deadline or failure to cure the deficiencies identified herein will result in a dismissal with prejudice of the deficient claims. Plaintiff may not add new causes of action or parties without leave of the Court or stipulation of the parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. IT IS SO ORDERED.
Now, Prager can go and write up a better lawsuit and try all of this again within 30 days if he chooses, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There is no YouTube liberal conspiracy against Prager and his conservative ilk. His facts are wrong, his insinuations are not true about whether liberals or conservatives have videos more often placed in the restricted mode, and if he insists on wasting the court’s time with any of this any further, then I will insist that we all agree that he’s a legal dunce.
IT IS SO ORDERED.