Prager University, a nonprofit that posts online educational videos, has sued Google for allegedly discriminating against conservative videos on YouTube.
"Google/YouTube regulate and censor speech as if the laws governing free speech and commerce do not apply to it," the school asserts in its complaint. "Defendants believe that they have unfettered, unbridled, and unrestricted power to censor speech or discriminate against public speakers at their whim for any reason, including their animus toward and political viewpoints of their public users and providers of video content."
Prager argues that YouTube has applied its "restricted mode" filter to the school's videos, which effectively makes them unavailable to some students and library patrons. The school also says that Google wrongly "demonetized" some videos. One of the allegedly demonetized clips posed the question, "Pakistan: Can Sharia and Freedom Coexist," while another asked, "Why Isn't Communism as Hated as Nazism?"
Prager also alleges that YouTube hasn't restricted other users' clips that address controversial political issues. "The only difference is that PragerU features speakers and scholars who bring a conservative viewpoint to the issues discussed while the non-restricted videos discuss the same topics from a liberal or left wing perspective," the school argues. "That is discrimination, a violation of the right to free speech, and an unfair business practice."
Judges have ruled in other cases that Google, Facebook and other web companies have the right to decide how to treat content on their platforms.
Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling dismissing a lawsuit against Facebook by the group Sikhs for Justice. That organization alleged that its content was blocked by Facebook in India.
The appellate court ruled that the Communications Decency Act immunizes the company from liability for decisions related to material created by users.
This February, a federal judge in Florida sided with Google in a lawsuit brought by search engine optimization company e-ventures Worldwide, which claimed its sites were wrongly removed from search results. The judge said in that case that Google has a free speech right to decide which search results to display.