For years, Google has called for “the free flow of information” on the internet. How does that square with its YouTube subsidiary’s apparent bias against conservative content? Answer: It doesn’t.
YouTube promises that it is “a community where everyone’s voice can be heard.” But that promise doesn’t seem to apply if the voice espouses conservative viewpoints.
The latest evidence of this comes from Dennis Prager, a conservative talk-show host whose syndicated column appears regularly in IBD and who also runs Prager University. PragerU produces hundreds of educational videos from academics and other experts on various topics, ranging from the history of the Korean War to Israel’s founding. There’s no profanity, no nudity, no calls to violence. But the videos do give conservatives a voice.
On Monday, PragerU filed suit against Google for singling out dozens of PragerU videos for censorship only because they are conservative. YouTube did this, the suit claims, by labeling the videos as “inappropriate” for younger or sensitive viewers — making them unavailable to anyone in a “restricted” viewing setting — or by “demonetizing” them, which means PragerU doesn’t get ad revenue, even if the videos are widely viewed.
PragerU says it tried to work with YouTube for a year to get its videos off the site’s “restricted” list, and ended up receiving conflicting, vague and unhelpful answers from the company.
Prager himself put it more simply: “Google, and their wholly owned company YouTube, apparently believe they can pick and choose who has free speech in this country.”
We can’t comment on how solid the legal ground is under the lawsuit, but it’s painfully obvious that Prager has a point about YouTube’s arbitrary and capricious handling of its videos.
One of them deemed inappropriate, for example, is a discussion with esteemed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Another is about e-cigarettes, and another is titled: “Ten Commandments: 6, Do Not Murder.”
How exactly is a video admonishing against murder “inappropriate” for sensitive viewers?
One of the “demonetized” videos was a PragerU Live talk with Bret Stephens, who is now a New York Times columnist.
PragerU also has compiled a long list of its videos that YouTube has restricted, along with similar videos that aren’t.
The best one: YouTube labeled a PragerU video titled “Why America must lead” as inappropriate, but not a video by Sen. John McCain titled … “Why America must lead.”
It even found instances where the exact same video was restricted when it appeared under the PragerU label, but not when it was posted by someone other than PragerU.
Prager is hardly the first conservative to complain about YouTube censorship, and such complaints aren’t limited to YouTube. Twitter has been accused of applying double standards to conservative speech, as has Facebook.
Yet all of these companies piously proclaim that they are dedicated to “net neutrality.” As Google put it on its own website, the internet must be a “level playing field” where people can “reach users on an equal footing.”
Of course, by “net neutrality” Google and others are talking about banning ISPs from charging different prices for different kinds of content as a way to manage the load on their networks.
But at the very least, Google should apply the same principle to itself that it demands from ISPs. Google can’t claim to be for a “level playing field” if it’s financially punishing those who don’t conform to its liberal orthodoxy.