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 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.”
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 for the three-judge panel.
Conservatives have long-claimed that the Ninth Circuit court is a progressive liberal bastion.
President Donald Trump has made headway in recent months changing the makeup of the 9th Circuit Court. He nominated Patrick Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke to the court in September. They would raise the number of Trump’s 9th Circuit appointees to nine.
YouTube also pushed back against PragerU’s argument.
“Google’s products are not politically biased,” Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman, 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, claiming in the California lawsuit that YouTube’s parent company, Google, restricted the nonprofit’s freedom of speech, discriminated against Prager in violation of the state’s civil rights act, and breach of contract for violating YouTube’s terms of service.
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