Posted on August 7, 2019

Don’t Let Google Get Away with Censorship

Dennis Prager, Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2019

{snip} Constitutional guarantees of free speech do not apply to private companies.

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{snip} I was asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on this matter for two reasons. One is the size of my website, Prager University, which gets a billion views a year, the majority of which come from viewers under 35. The more important reason is that YouTube, which is owned by Google, has at various times placed about 100 of our videos on its restricted list. That means any home, institution or individual using a filter to block pornography and violence cannot see those videos. Nor can any school or library.

PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. As of this writing, 56 of its 320 videos are on YouTube’s restricted list. They include videos such as “Israel’s Legal Founding” (by Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz); “Why America Invaded Iraq” (by Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts); “Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?” (by the Somali-American women’s-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali); “Are the Police Racist?” (by the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald); and “Why Is Modern Art So Bad?” (by artist Robert Florczak).

We have asked Google why our videos—which contain neither violence nor pornography nor any kind of hatred—are restricted. {snip}

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Conservatives who defend Google or merely oppose any government interference argue that Google is a private company, and private companies are free to publish or not publish whatever they want. But Google, YouTube and Facebook choose not to be regarded as “publishers” because publishers are liable for what they publish and can be sued for libel.

Congress gave Google and other social media an exemption from such lawsuits in 1996, with the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of that bill provided these companies with immunity against defamation and some other legal claims. The clear intent of Section 230—the bargain Congress made with the tech companies—was to promote free speech while allowing companies to moderate indecent content without being classified as publishers.

But Google and the others have violated this agreement. They want to operate under a double standard: censoring material that has no indecent content—that is, acting like publishers—while retaining the immunity of nonpublishers. When YouTube puts PragerU’s content on the restricted list, when Twitter bans conservative actor James Woods, they are no longer open forums.

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{snip} When left-wing sites are restricted it is because their videos contain expletives or material truly inappropriate for children, not because they are left-wing. PragerU videos do not contain expletives and are very suitable for children. Our videos are restricted only because they are conservative. How else to explain why Google has restricted more than half of our 15 videos that are pro-Israel—even one by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

The unwillingness of some conservatives to confront some of the most dangerous attacks on free speech in American history is disturbing. Do they think Google, Facebook and Twitter—the conduits of a vast proportion of the free world’s public information—don’t act on their loathing of conservatives?

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