A California federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused Google and YouTube of censoring politically conservative content, ruling that the plaintiff failed to state a case on either First Amendment or copyright-law grounds.
The suit, filed last October by conservative radio talk host and YouTuber Dennis Prager, accused Google and YouTube of censorship for placing age restrictions on his content due to what he called “animus” against his “political identity and viewpoint.” Prager’s YouTube channel, PragerU, produces conservative-minded content on topics like Brexit, affirmative action, climate-change skepticism, and abortion.
In his suit, Prager said age gates placed on some of his videos contradict YouTube’s stated policy of neutrality toward differing political opinions. Prager also accused the platform of preventing ads from running on some videos without “compelling, significant, or legitimate reason,” and of failing to honor its user agreements.
In addition, Prager cited the 1954 Supreme Court decision Marsh v. Alabama to assert that YouTube is a de facto public square. He said it is subject to First Amendment constraints.
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh disagreed, ruling that YouTube and Google are “private entities” and that Prager failed to make the case that they operate like state actors. Koh cited the 1972 Supreme Court decision Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, which ruled that a privately-owned mall could ban people from distributing literature against the Vietnam War on its grounds.
Koh also ruled that Prager failed to make the case that YouTube or Google committed false advertising, calling YouTube’s statements about viewpoint neutrality and promises to help creators to be “mere puffery” and therefore not actionable under U.S. copyright law.
In her ruling, Koh denied Prager’s request for a preliminary injunction, but dismissed the suit with permission to amend. Prager will be allowed to refile his lawsuit to address her concerns within 30 days of Monday’s ruling.