Conspiracy theorist and “pizzagate” promoter David Seaman has sued Google for banning him from YouTube.
“Google and YouTube are censoring videos, including those published by David, not based on any objective finding of inappropriate material, but on Google and YouTube’s purely subjective perception of what they deem politically correct and incorrect,” he alleges in a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The complaint alleges that between 2014 and 2017, Seaman posted hundreds of videos dealing with “pedophilia, human trafficking and 'Pizzagate.'” (Like some other right-wing conspiracy theorists, Seaman promoted the false theory that Hillary Clinton was running a fictitious child sex ring from a Washington, D.C. pizza shop.)
He says Google banned him and deleted his videos in February of 2018 over alleged violations of the company's terms of service. Before the ban, he had amassed nearly 162,000 YouTube subscribers, and earned $116,000 a year from the company, his complaint states.
“Google induced and incentivized YouTube users to create and publish content by monetizing channels and by promising to share the huge and unprecedented profits received from advertisements embedded in videos,” he alleges.
Seaman also alleges that he never violated YouTube's policies and community guidelines.
“YouTube did not ban David Seaman because David engaged in hateful, harassing, bullying or abusive behavior,” his complaint alleges. “David’s account was terminated in February 2018 because Google and YouTube did not like his speech.”
He claims include allegations that Google has violated the First Amendment and the Virginia constitution, and that Google defamed him by accusing him of violating the terms of service or community guidelines.
“This case raises the issue whether Google and YouTube can create an online public square, and then, once that public forum becomes ubiquitous, arbitrarily and discriminatorily ban users from the platform due to Google and YouTube’s disagreement with a speaker’s viewpoint, political beliefs, and perceived political affiliations.”
Google, like other tech companies, has faced prior lawsuits for allegedly “censoring” people by banning them or deleting their material.
So far, judges have sided with the tech companies and ruled that the First Amendment only prohibits the government -- and not private businesses -- from censoring speech.
Among other examples, Facebook defeated a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit advocacy organization Sikhs for Justice, which alleged in a 2015 lawsuit that Facebook violated anti-discrimination laws by blocking the organization's page in India. Google also recently prevailed in a lawsuit brought by Prager University, which alleged the tech company discriminated against conservative clips on YouTube.