This week PragerU, a conservative not-for-profit organization founded by Dennis Prager, filed a lawsuit against Google and YouTube for "unlawfully censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech." In an interview with The Daily Wire on Friday, PragerU CEO Marissa Streit underscored the far-reaching free speech implications of her organization's legal action against what has become "two of the most important public forums in the world" and explained why their legal team feels "very strongly" that they can win.
Founded in 2011, PragerU describes its mission as seeking to "help millions understand the values that shaped America and provides millions of Americans and people around the world with the intellectual ammunition they need to advocate for limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom." Over the years, PragerU's educational videos have garnered hundreds of millions of views, including over 250 million views in 2016 alone, according to the organization.
In a press release issued Tuesday, PragerU's legal team — which includes Harvard's Alan Dershowitz and former California Governor Pete Wilson and Eric George of Browne George Ross, among several others — laid out the rationale for the lawsuit, which was prompted by Google/YouTube restricting or "demonitizing" over 50 PragerU videos for what YouTube claims is "inappropriate" content for younger audiences.
The censored PragerU videos "range on various subjects presenting a conservative point of view, and include a video by noted Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on the founding of Israel," the press release explains. As their list of restricted videos shows, among the videos are "Why America Must Lead," "The Ten Commandments: Do Not Murder," "Why Did America Fight the Korean War?" and "The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians." None of the 50-plus videos, PragerU maintains, merits an "inappopriate" label as described by YouTube's policies.
Founder Dennis Prager said in a statement Tuesday that YouTube's determination of what is "inappropriate" is "entirely ideologically driven" and clearly reveals "an arbitrary and capricious use of their ‘restricted mode’ and ‘demonetization’ to restrict non-left political thought."
"Watch any one of our videos and you’ll immediately realize that Google/YouTube censorship is entirely ideologically driven. For the record, our videos are presented by some of the finest minds in the Western world, including four Pulitzer Prize winners, former prime ministers, and professors from the most prestigious universities in America," said Prager.
Streit told The Daily Wire that after months of submitting complaints and seeking explanations for the restrictions placed on their video content, PragerU felt compelled to take legal action not only for what their legal team maintains is a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing with their own organization, but because it is "a breach of trust with the public."
"You don’t have to be a conservative to agree that it's wrong that YouTube and Google censor conservative speech simply for ideological reasons," said Streit. "The platforms have become two of the most important public forums in the world. Google portrays itself as a public forum. It cannot now turn around and act as if it isn't."
Streit added, "If Google is planning on censoring conservative speech, they’re being dishonest about the service they provide. There is an unspoken trust from the public in Google, as evidenced in the use of 'google' as a verb. If they are not in fact going to try to present information fairly, then that public trust is misplaced."
Asked if she believes her organization can win the legal battle with the world's most influential company, Streit said yes. Among the reasons the organization feels so confident, she suggested, is the strength of conviction among their diverse legal team, which is composed of both conservative and liberal attorneys.
Despite representing a wide range of views, the team is unified in their belief that PragerU's legal battle is not only worth fighting, but one that has a great chance of being successful. The legal team's two primary contentions, Streit explained, are that YouTube and Google are public forums and that YouTube's capricious restrictions on their video content demonstrates "a clear breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing."
"We wouldn’t do this unless we thought we would win," said Streit. "Our attorneys feel very strongly about the case."