Google Defeats PragerU's Lawsuit Over 'Censorship'

Siding with Google, a federal judge has dismissed Prager University's lawsuit accusing the web company of discriminating against conservative clips on YouTube.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled this week that because Google is a private business, as opposed to a government entity, it can decide how to treat content on its platform.

Prager alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that Google wrongly applied its "restricted mode" filter to the school's videos, effectively making them unavailable to some students and library patrons. Prager also alleged that Google "demonetized" some conservative videos, like a clip that posed the question "Pakistan: Can Sharia and Freedom Coexist?"

Prager argued that these steps by Google violated the school's First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

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Google countered that the First Amendment prohibits the government from censoring speech, but doesn't prevent private companies from deciding how to treat content. "If the First Amendment actually bound private online service providers as it binds the government, those providers would be significantly constrained in their ability to act even against highly offensive or objectionable content," Google argued in a motion asking Koh to dismiss the lawsuit.

Koh rejected Prager's arguments, writing that Google and YouTube are not "state actors that must regulate the content on their privately created website in accordance with the strictures of the First Amendment."

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 year,the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to revive a lawsuit against Facebook by the group Sikhs for Justice. That organization alleged that its content was blocked by Facebook in India.

In another example, a federal judge in Florida recently 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.

Koh's dismissal was without prejudice, meaning that Prager can attempt to rework its complaint and bring it again.

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