Facebook, YouTube and other big tech companies are not bound to abide by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a court ruled Wednesday, dealing a blow to conservatives online.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision came in a case brought by Prager University, a nonprofit that produces videos promoting conservative positions on politics. PragerU sued YouTube in 2017 for flagging several of its videos as “inappropriate” and stripping them of advertising.
“Obviously, we are disappointed,” PragerU attorney Peter Obstler said in a statement. “We will continue to pursue PragerU’s claims of overt discrimination on YouTube in the state court case under California’s heightened antidiscrimination, free-speech and consumer-contract law.”
The Wall Street Journal initially reported on the court’s ruling.
PragerU, founded by radio-talk show host Dennis Prager, argues the platform has become a type of public utility.
The court disagrees. “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 wrote for the three-judge panel.
Conservatives have long said the Ninth Circuit Court is a progressive liberal bastion.
President Donald Trump has made headway in recent months changing the makeup of the Ninth Circuit Court. He nominated Patrick Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke to the court in 2019. The Senate confirmed them in December, raising the number of Trump’s Ninth Circuit appointees to nine.
YouTube also pushed back against PragerU’s argument.
“Google’s products are not politically biased,” YouTube spokesman Farshad Shadloo said in a statement Wednesday. “PragerU’s allegations were meritless, both factually and legally, and the court’s ruling vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”
PragerU filed a similar complaint in January 2019, saying in the California lawsuit that Google restricted the nonprofit’s freedom of speech, discriminated against Prager in violation of the state’s civil rights act and breached contract for violating YouTube’s terms of service.
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Image: screenshot PragerU YouTube