PragerU Brings New Suit Against Google In California State Court

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  • PragerU filed a second suit against Google, YouTube’s parent company, for allegedly violating California state law in restricting access to its videos.
  • The conservative nonprofit’s educational videos have consistently been placed in YouTube’s “restricted mode” and barred from monetizing ad revenue.
  • A separate lawsuit Prager filed against Google at the federal level was dismissed in district court and is currently on appeal before a federal appellate court.

Conservative nonprofit PragerU filed suit against Google in California court on Tuesday for allegedly violating state law in restricting access to Prager’s educational videos on YouTube, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The suit claims that YouTube’s restrictions on many of Prager’s videos violate California law in four ways: Restricting the nonprofit’s freedom of speech contrary to the state constitution; discriminating against Prager on a religious and political basis in violation of the state’s civil rights act; “engaging in unlawful, misleading, and unfair businesses practices” contrary to the state’s unfair competition laws; and breach of contract for violating YouTube’s own terms of service.

Many of Prager’s videos have been placed in “restricted mode,” which often makes them unavailable for users who are part of or using a larger network, such as networks operated by schools, libraries and public institutions. The suit also claims that YouTube capriciously and discriminatorily demonetized Prager’s videos, depriving them of earning advertising revenue from their videos.

Prager previously filed suit against Google, YouTube’s parent company, in federal court. That suit lost at the district level and is currently pending on appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (RELATED: Google Has An Actual Secret Speech Police)

Attorneys for Prager said they filed the second suit at the state level on the recommendation of the federal judge in the first case.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Google I/O 2016 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 19, 2016 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“We originally filed a lawsuit that had two federal claims, one under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the other for unfair competition and advertising under the Lanham Act,” said lead PragerU attorney Peter Obstler. “We also filed five claims in that lawsuit under California law, including a free speech claim under the Liberty of Speech clause of the California Constitution that takes a much broader view of state action. We also filed state law claims for discrimination under the Unruh Act, unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices, and breach of contract.”

“We’ve taken an appeal to the Ninth Circuit on the merits of the two federal law claims, and the state law claims were dismissed without prejudice. In other words, the court made very clear that the state law claims were dismissed out of deference to state law courts, that the state courts should decide issues of their own law – not the federal court,” Obstler continued. “Today we’ve come full circle by filing a state law action, as the judge requested we do, in a state court to litigate those issues there. So we’re now going to have a two track litigation.”

Restricted Mode is an optional feature used by a small subset of users to filter out videos that may include sensitive or mature content. Giving viewers the choice to opt in to a more restricted experience is not censorship. In fact, this is exactly the type of tool that Congress has encouraged online services to provide for parents and others interested in a more family-friendly experience online,” a Google spokesperson told TheDCNF in an email.

“PragerU’s videos weren’t excluded from Restricted Mode because of politics or ideology. A federal court has already held that PragerU’s allegations are meritless, and we believe the state court will reach the same conclusion,” the spokesperson said.

PragerU CEO Marissa Streit said she remains optimistic about the federal case but added that “there is reason to believe certain claims are even stronger in California. Specifically claims relating to YouTube’s breach of contract and consumer fraud.”

“They claim to be a public forum for free expression, but they behave instead as a publisher with editorial controls. You cannot have it both ways,” Streit said.

Prager has previously battled censorship from Facebook, as well as Google. Nine Prager videos in a row received zero views on Facebook and two were deleted for allegedly violating the company’s “hate speech” policies in August. Facebook later apologized for its censorship of Prager, which the tech giant said was done “mistakenly.”

Prager’s full complaint can be viewed below.

Prageru State Law Complaint… by on Scribd

This article has been updated to include a statement from Google

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

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