Anti-Vax Doctor Battles YouTube Over Account Termination

Anti-vax doctor Joseph Mercola is pressing a federal appeals court to revive a lawsuit claiming Google's YouTube wrongly terminated his account and deprived him of access to his videos. 

Mercola was one of several high-profile vaccine critics whose accounts were abruptly taken down by YouTube in September 2021, when the company revised its medical misinformation policies by banning videos that claim vaccines cause harmful side effects or don't work.

He subsequently sued Google, arguing the company broke its contract with him by canceling his YouTube account -- and preventing him from accessing the videos he had uploaded -- without “reasonable” notice.

The vaccine critic pointed to language in YouTube's terms of service that said the company would provide “reasonable advance notice of any material modifications” to the user agreement.



U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler dismissed Mercola's complaint at an early stage in September, effectively ruling that even if his allegations were true, they wouldn't show that YouTube broke its contract. She said YouTube's terms provided that the company wasn't obligated to host content, and that it may remove content that it believed could harm the company or its users.

Mercola is now appealing that ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he reiterated his argument that Google should have given him advance notice before terminating his channel.

Last month, Google urged the appellate court to reject Mercola's appeal, writing that the YouTube user agreement “expressly provides that YouTube may remove content in its discretion, including when it determines -- as it did here -- that such content may harm others.”

Mercola counters in papers filed Wednesday that the “plain language” of the terms of service supports his interpretation. He adds that even if the terms of service were ambiguous, he should have been allowed to present evidence to support his interpretation.

The 9th Circuit hasn't yet said when it will hold a hearing in the case.

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