9th Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Big Tech Silencing Techniques

Not surprising, a judge in California’s Ninth Circuit Court in California has ruled in favor of big tech’s right to censorship in a case that was brought by Dennis Prager in 2017 for his Prager University organization’s YouTube account.

In a three-judge panel, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed arguments that platforms like Google-owned YouTube can be sued under the First Amendment for decisions on content moderation and upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case.

“Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown, a Clinton appointee, wrote in the opinion.

Prager University filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California saying that YouTube censored their content in violation of the First Amendment.

In the suit, PragerU argues that YouTube, despite claiming to be a “platform for free expression,” applies its Terms of Use and Community Guidelines to unjustly censor content based on its political leaning.

The suit goes on to argue that because YouTube functions as the largest public forum in American history, with more than 1.3 billion users and 30 million page visits per day, it should have to comply with traditional legal standards for free speech.

PragerU says Google violated the group’s free speech rights by putting approximately 20 percent of its videos on “restricted” mode and limiting its advertising.

These companies “fulfill a roll that approximates a public square,” Geoffrey King, professor of media studies at UC Berkeley, told TheWrap in 2018.

“It’s a really big deal to censor content or kick someone off your platform. It’s a decision they have the power to make, but it’s not one they should be undertaking lightly, to say the least.”

When content creators are kicked off of multiple platforms, or restricted, as was done to PragerU videos, they are effectively being kicked out of the town square. Their voice in public debates becomes marginalized and they are, for all intents and purposes, silenced.

Currently, YouTube and other platforms are hiding behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from facing certain liabilities for posts by third-party users and also gives them the authority to moderate content on their platforms. The problem is, that leaves them to define “decency.”

It is time for these large tech companies to stop hiding behind the argument that they are a private company with a very biased political agenda. They are publishers and advocates. At the heart of the suit was whether PragerU’s free speech was violated, but it doesn’t answer the obvious question:  Why was YouTube putting 20 percent of the organization’s videos on restricted mode?

And despite what the established media would have us believe, Google has been caught with their political bias pants around their collective ankles on multiple occasions.

As recent as August 2019, another in a long line of former Google engineers has blown the whistle on the political bias of the monolithic tech giant. Ex-Google engineer, Kevin Cernekee, who was fired from the company in June 2018 for misuse of company equipment, said Google is seeking to influence the 2020 election process against Trump.

Speaking with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Cernekee said Google has “very biased people running every level of the company” who are dedicated to ensuring President Donald Trump is not reelected in 2020.

Google’s Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation Global Affairs, was recently busted by one of James O’Keefe’s latest Project Veritas’ undercover stings. Gennai was captured on video admitting that Google manipulates its search results and data and is actively working to stop the re-election of President Trump by manipulating machine learning (ML) algorithms.

Joelle Skaf, a Google software engineer, was responsible for circulating an in-house petition that was signed by more than 2,000 Googlers after it was announced that Kay Coles James, President of the conservative Heritage Foundation, was going to serve on Google’s advisory board.

This is the elephant in the room that the PragerU court case did not address and why we must advocate for social media platforms and search engines to be classified as publishers. As it stands now, there is no remedy when people are unjustly silenced or kicked out of the political arena because of political or religious views.

There is no legal remedy when you do a search for a conservative public figure and Google won’t return a simple link to their website but papers the results to links of every single negative article deriding a conservative figure. And this must change.