Prager University and Tulsi Gabbard Lose Censorship Suits Against Google  

Forcing Google to behave like a public utility would probably not serve the interests of those demanding that designation—or the rest of us.


"I promise you, one day you will say, first they came after conservatives, and I said nothing," opined Dennis Prager at a Senate hearing in July, invoking the famous Holocaust poem by Martin Niemöller. In this case, they refers not to Nazis but to YouTube, which Prager contends is censoring his business. The right-leaning radio host runs Prager University, also known as PragerU, a nonprofit that publishes videos to YouTube, a Google subsidiary.

Prager sued the platform in 2019 after YouTube classified some of its videos in a way that hid them from the 1.5 percent of users who had opted into "restricted mode," which screens out content with mature themes.

While it's worth debating whether YouTube should handle political content identically to violent and sexually suggestive content, PragerU's suit argued that YouTube has become so large that it should now be treated as a public utility and thus prohibited from engaging in viewpoint discrimination. In a ruling issued in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit fundamentally rejected that argument. "PragerU runs headfirst into two insurmountable barriers—the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent," wrote Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown, reminding the plaintiffs that the Constitution protects individuals only from government censorship.

PragerU found common ground on this issue with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii), who sued Google for violating her First Amendment rights after it temporarily suspended her campaign advertising account following an especially compelling Democratic primary debate performance in June. (Google says the suspension was automatically triggered by its anti-fraud provision, which flags accounts with large changes in spending.)

Like PragerU, Gabbard argued that Google is a public utility and, as such, should be required to maintain neutrality. But as Judge Stephen Wilson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California observed, the First Amendment has no bearing on decisions made by private businesses. "Google is not now, nor (to the Court's knowledge) has it ever been, an arm of the United States government," he wrote.

Gabbard and PragerU may very well be justified in railing against Google's content moderation methods. But they seem not to have considered the deleterious effects they might have had on the open internet if they had prevailed in court. It's possible that companies would start scrubbing more content in an effort to avoid lawsuits alleging preferential treatment for certain viewpoints. Conversely, they might also forfeit their right to moderate content at all, which both Prager and Gabbard might change their mind on once companies lose the ability to remove porn.

Forcing Google to behave like a public utility would not be likely to serve the interests of those demanding that designation, to say nothing of the rest of us.

NEXT: Brickbat: This Is Awkward

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  1. Old news….This is the best Unreason can possibly do? C’mon Binion.

    1. it’s not like they have plenty to write about or anything, I mean we have NY stomping on rights, Cali stomping on rights, Michigan stomping on rights, Illinois stomping on rights…. oh, and the Flynn case showing that the Obama administration was involved in seditious behavior against an incoming president. I suppose they’ll just have to wait until something important comes up, like Trump saying something that gets taken out of context.

      1. Flynn was outed as a fucking Russian asset then lied about it. Fuck that traitor.

        1. I think watching you desperately defend a bunch of debunked bullshit after you lose is my favorite thing ever.

          1. A bit more like a crazy person to be avoided on the street, ranting, pissing himself. One wonders, can progressives get by w/o outrage, virtue signaling, and shared falsehoods?

            1. What would be left besides strange clothes and vegan cooking?

              1. If you got rid of virtue signaling, the vegan cooking would be gone.

              2. Weed? Cool-Aid colored hair? Hipster glasses?

                1. Lori R. Champman am now getting paid every month more than $31,000 by doing very easy job online from home. I have earned last month $31540 from this easy job just by giving this job only 2 to 3 hrs a day using my laptop. Everybody on this earth can now get this job and start making more cash online just by follow instructions on this web page… Read More Details

        2. Not surprising, given that Drumpf himself has been a Russian intelligence asset since 1987.


        3. you’re really shitting all over the comment section. What’s wrong, are you panicking because the walls closing in on your precious party? Have you realized that you and your friends are being exposed for the seditious traitors you are?

          1. “Have you realized that you and your friends are being exposed for the seditious traitors you are?”

            Wake me when there are perp walks. I’ve heard this theme music before, and nothing ever happens. Oooh! Somebody might have to lose their law license! Oh Noes!

            It’s bullshit. Nobody goes to jail, nobody loses their house; hell, they don’t even lose their choice table at Le Cirque, or wherever the DC/NYC smart set go out to eat and be seen.

            When people start getting sent to ADX Florence or Terre Haute, I’ll get interested. Not until then.

            1. Agreed. Talk is cheap. Libertarians rail against the TSQ and “security theater” but believe THIS TIME the crooks are going to get theirs.

              Charlie Brown kicking a football… every time.

            2. Don’t they have to go to some classes? To learn how not to make mistakes in Govt service? And what style of jackboot to wear?

        4. Wow, somebody’s has been deliberately trying his damndest not to pay attention.

          Are you genuinely ignorant of the new revelations or merely pretending.

      2. I know, I know….right? I guess the Binion Birdbrain ran outta energy hawking trade bullshit.

      3. Reason has attacked Cuomo. Try to keep up.

    2. It’s from the print edition. Maybe you’ve forgotten how laggy those are.

      1. what is this “print” you speak of? pay-per? What’s that? XD

  2. Prager is Exhibit #1007 of why conservatives are idiots.

    1. Well somebody’s projecting…

      1. Well he’s pretty stupid to think the first amendment applies to private entities.

    2. Google flagging their content was definitely bias, and there is a clear pattern of them doing so with anyone to the right of Pol Pot who starts getting popular. It’s inconsistent and intentional.

      In most senses YouTube functions as a global public utility. If it can’t be posted on YouTube or PornHub it may as well not exist.

      When it comes to publishing, libertarians should be as vehemently against censorship in the private sphere as in the public, while still recognizing their right to do so.

      A serious examination of the corporatism and the incestuous bureaucratic relationships that have allowed Alphabet to flourish and stifle competition, needs to be performed.

      1. You nailed it. Censorship… even if justifiable because it is done by a private entity, is still deleterious to the social fabric and should be called out. Calling something out and refusing to defend it are not the same as actively attempting to alter it.

        In general terms, Prager is wrong. But a wrinkle I would like to see explored is… does ABC get any fed dollars? If so… does that not compel them to follow certain fed guidelines that are bound by the Const, BoR, and SCOTUS precedent?

        Like how universities who take fed bucks have certain restrictions on them… why cant the same be done to companies?

        Solves one of two problems… censorship ends OR fed funding ends. As long as one of those happens it’s a net plus for society.

  3. Top Government Vaccine Expert Fired for Questioning Trump’s Fake Science

    Are you fucking Peanuts taking your quack Trump medicines?

    1. Yup, so you’d better get back in your pyramid canopy bed and hug your crystals. Oh, and put on at least 3 face masks.

    2. Except that wasn’t the reason he left, you gullible piece of shit.

      No, wait… I take that back. You’re not gullible. You know that’s not actually true, so what you really are is a lying piece of shit.

  4. Labor force participation rate lowest in five decades

    The 14.7% unemployment figure released last week was bad enough, but even worse news was tucked inside the Labor Department’s report: The labor force participation rate tumbled to 60.2%, the lowest rate since 1973, when women were joining en masse.

    Washington Times


    1. We can all tell your loss on Flynn is upsetting you deeply.

    2. Wow, am I glad to see you’re OK!

      You live in Georgia, right? I heard your Republican governor has totally botched your state’s #TrumpVirus response, turning the place into a literal death trap. It’s too bad not every state can have Andrew Cuomo as governor.

      1. It’s too bad not every state can have Andrew Cuomo as governor.

        Don’t forget his nipple piercings.

      2. It does take a special level of corruption and self-loathing in a majority of a State’s electorate to have a governor like Andrew Cuomo.

        1. And ironically I think it would have been even worse in NY if Cuomo hadn’t stopped De Blasio on a few things. If that’s even possible

          1. Cuomo may be incompetent, but DeBlasio is malicious.

            1. Warren Wilhelm Bill deBlasio, prefers to use a fake ethnic-sounding nick as his political nom de guerre.
              Just like his heroes
              Ioseb Djugashvili Stalin, Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin or Cory Booker Spartacus.

              1. Forget to close tags and ruin the joke…

                1. decipherable still.

    3. The participation rate fell like a rock during Obama, not Trump.

    4. You’d have a point if every Dem governor hadn’t put a shotgun to the head of their economies you fucking hack.

      1. While I think Nate is being a bit rude, he is correct.

        Trying to put this downturn on Trump is just counterfactual. In fact, Trump is being criticized by many for wanting to not damage the economy more. For thinking that the jobs saved by allowing reopening aren’t worth the risk of increased infection.

        1. The sad thing is, I don’t even like Trump. But damn if shriek hasn’t been able to get under my skin since the first time he called me a christfag.

          1. Hey, I don’t like the guy either. I feel like I’m being forced into the Trump camp by the extremists who just can’t stop lying about him.

            1. It’s like Waco and how the fedbois handled that.

              Yes… Koresh is a pedo and you can attempt to stop that.

              No… you get to burn him alive for owning guns and then tack on that he was a pedo.

              Crucify someone for what they deserve… it isn’t that hard.

              1. You DO NOT get to burn him alive…

                My kingdom for an edit button.

              2. “Yes… Koresh is a pedo and you can attempt to stop that.”

                I tend to think the reason they didn’t attempt to stop that, is that it was just another smear to justify murdering all those people.

  5. Now YouTube is removing videos from even credentialed people who contradict the party lines of government and quasi-governmental bodies like WHO in favor of traditional media outlets. Does that serve the interests of the rest of us?

    1. Not supposed to. If YouTube is stupid enough to throw away revenue to please its owners, that its owners’ problem.

    2. If A is collaborating with the state in an effort to suppress speech the state opposes, A has no right to censor such speech notwithstanding hollow assertions that A is not the state.

  6. Tulsi should have gone after YouTube/Google for failing to report non-monetary contributions to the opposition.
    I think at least on the political front, people would have a better case with the FEC than the alleged 1st amendment.

    1. Yes, and the terms of service. Those are contracts. But likely written to favor Googoo.

      1. Yep! You can argue, what good is my contract with you if you’re going to stop advertising when I need it most, when the most people are looking for my information?

  7. “Except, it wasn’t ‘inadvertently cutting short anything. It was clear propaganda.

    In the original clip, CBS News’ Catherine Herridge asks Barr how history would judge the DOJ’s decision – to which Barr responds “Well, history is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.

    Todd cuts the clip off there, and says that he was “struck by the cynicism of the answer — it’s a correct answer, but he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this was a political job.”

    In fact, that’s exactly what Barr said.

    “I think a fair history would say it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law,” said the AG, adding “It upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.”

    In other words, Todd literally stole Barr’s line about ‘upholding the rule of law’ and flipped it around in a case of blatant propaganda.”

  8. Google exists because of regulatory capture abs rent seeking. And Google is being blackmailed by government to do the government’s bidding. Calling Google a private company is absurd.

    1. In fact, it is batshit insane to characterize Google as “private.”

  9. It’s ridiculous to think Google or Facebook or Twitter would be discriminating against conservatives – they’re all evil rich greedy capitalists, aren’t they? They’re public companies with evil greedy rich capitalist stockholders – liberals don’t make enough from their artisanal soap co-ops and organic beet farms to donate any more than token amounts to PETA and Greenpeace and NPR, they sure as hell aren’t buying stocks or engaging in business to the extent that they could come to control the boardrooms of these companies. There simply aren’t any rich and powerful liberals, “rich and powerful liberal” would be a contradiction in terms. It would be as ridiculous as a socialist owning more than one home.

    1. When every one is equal, it is good to be among the more equal.

  10. For Prager, that’s Google’s problem.

    However, Gabbard’s campaign is different. Google is in the same position as a television channel. There are severe restrictions in campaign finance laws to prevent the owners of TV channels from becoming gatekeepers. Various laws put a nearly complete ban on the editorial review of campaign advertising. If you advertise for any candidate, you have to allow all campaign ads. There have even been arguments that you must run all presented to you, even those that are objectively false.

    By allowing Google to prevent her advertising, that puts an international company with a majority portion of an advertising oligopoly in the position to cancel a candidate from the lion’s share of advertising reach.

    As I’ve said from the beginning, Gabbard’s first amendment case was weak. Her campaign finance case seems nearly ironclad.

    1. Well, except from the perspective the the 1st amendment is Constitution, and campaign finance laws statutes, which means that when they come into conflict, the 1st amendment is supposed to win. Every single time.

      Seriously, campaign finance laws are largely just an effort to commit political censorship by using money as an excuse.

  11. kinda missing Tulsi …

    1. Maybe she’ll be running mate for Biden!

      Obama been bidin’ his time, till we all be wearin’ burkas, but that’s snot irrelephant, I suppose!

      In any case, maybe she’ll mate with Biden!

      ONE thing for SURE, she looks better than Biden, and may brighten our boob tubes!

      1. Tulsi needs to take some lessons from this woman in China, and get some publicity for Biden, after they do the running-mating thing!
        Do it yourself: Ikea masturbation video goes viral in China

  12. Hey, assholes: If you know absolutely jack shit about the tech industry can you PLEASE fuck off and stop begging the government to ruin it with regulations like they have every other industry?

    1. Although I resemble this remark, I must say, I do agree with it!

  13. The reason why platforms like google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc should be treated like “public utilities” is simple.

    Every one of them aggressively opposed the repeal of the half-baked “Open Internet Order” which applied exactly that level of regulation on cable ISPs as a supposed bulwark against the possibility of the ISPs someday achieving the kind of “monopoly power” and using that power to suppress whatever voices they happened to find disagreeable. Google and fb already have a “market share” well in excess of what the cable ISPs could ever hope to amass, have admitted to (and in some cases boasted about) using that power to “deplatform” voices they find disagreeable, and are now lobbying for the government to impose new regulations which would require them to do more of that (which could offer them protection from these kinds of actions since it would allow them to claim that their censorship was merely compliance with the existing laws).

  14. This seems like a borderline situation of public-private partnership.

    Governments all over the world are pressing for censorship of the Internet – this definitely includes the US – or if not the current U. S. government, at least those in the other party who, the platforms probably worry, could become the government at any time.

    They might well conclude that a last-ditch fight for free expression wouldn’t be good for the bottom line, or they might in some cases welcome the excuse of govt. pressure to make them do what they’re inclined to do anyway.

    In any case, as with this Facebook censorship appeals board containing former politicians and bureaucrats from all over the world, it’s hard to tell where government censorship ends and private censorship begins. Especially when the private platform already feels uneasy allowing the wrong sort of people to amplify their voices with the platform.

  15. anyone else believe that gabbard got tossed for INCREASING spending? google must think we are really stupid. oh wait…we are.

    we let the govt quarantine healthy people, let the dems call biden a viable candidate, think corona virus has something to do with beer and hoard toilet paper when we think we might get a virus. we are stupid.

    we are stupid

    1. google knows what people are searching for and how many still go to snopes to find “fact-checking”.

      they know better than anyone what the median stupidity level online is.

      Just like the old joke,

      Think about how dumb the “average person” is, then realize that half the people out there are dumber than that.

  16. She should have sued them for breach of contract, not for a first amendment violation.

  17. ‘Restricted Mode’ also means that Mr. Prager doesn’t get any advertising revenue from Google.

    1. Morever, he’s creating “educational” videos, and guess who can’t see restricted mode videos? Yeah, anybody using an educational account.

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