Siding with Google, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender YouTube content creators who said the company violated their First Amendment rights by “censoring” their clips.
In a decision issued Wednesday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Virginia DeMarchi in San Jose ruled that Google and YouTube are “private entities,” as opposed to government officials, and therefore are not bound by the First Amendment's prohibition against restricting speech.
“Plaintiffs do not state a claim ... for violation of the First Amendment because defendants are not state actors,” DeMarchi wrote in a 19-page ruling.
The decision stems from a lawsuit brought in August of 2019 by Divino Group -- which owns GlitterBombTV.com and distributes GNews! via YouTube -- and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender content creators.
They alleged in a class-action complaint that YouTube “censored” them by preventing ads from running in some of their videos, placing age restrictions on clips, and tagging other clips with a “restricted mode” designation -- a setting that allows users to automatically avoid material that depicts sexual activity, drug use, war, crime and other topics aimed at “mature” audiences.
Divino and the others claimed that Google's alleged activity violated their free speech rights, as well as California civil rights laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The lawsuit also alleged Google's decision to put a “restricted mode” label on videos amounted to a form of false advertising.
DeMarchi dismissed the claim that Google violated the users' free speech rights with prejudice -- meaning that Divino and the others can't redraft their complaint and bring that claim again.
She noted in the ruling that a federal appellate court sided with Google last year, in a similar lawsuit brought by Prager University.
DeMarchi also dismissed the false advertising claim and state law claims, but without prejudice. She gave the content creators until January 20 to reformulate those allegations and bring them again.