An employee walks past Google Inc.’s YouTube logo displayed in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Google Wins Dismissal of Censorship Suit by Conservative Group

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(Bloomberg) -- An educational group founded by a conservative talk-show host failed to show that Google engaged in illegal censorship by limiting access to some of the organization’s content through YouTube.

The Internet search company, now a unit of Alphabet Inc., and its video-sharing website don’t qualify as "state actors" that need to provide a public forum for speech under the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled. The educational group, Prager University, can amend its lawsuit and file again, the San Francisco-based judge said.

Google and YouTube "are private entities who created their own video-sharing social media website and make decisions about whether and how to regulate content that has been uploaded on that website," Koh said in her decision Monday. Prager failed to show the companies "have somehow engaged in one of the very few functions that were traditionally exclusively reserved to the state.”

Prager University, founded by radio host Dennis Prager, describes its mission as spreading "what we call ‘Americanism’ through the power of the Internet" in five-minute videos. The group sued in October claiming Google and YouTube were violating free speech rights by using filters to restrict access to right-leaning videos on topics such as the "Arab world," gun rights and abortion.

More liberal speakers such as Buzzfeed and Bill Maher, whose content includes profanity or graphic material, remain unfiltered on YouTube channels, Prager claimed.

Google Resists Becoming Digital ‘Town Square’ in Censorship Spat

Prager representatives didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Koh’s ruling.

Mountain View, California-based Google stirred controversy with the firing of engineer James Damore, in August, fueling claims that Silicon Valley suppresses conservative views. Damore had written a memo criticizing the company’s affirmative action policies, and suggested women were biologically less-qualified for technology jobs than men.

The case is Prager University v. Google LLC, 17-cv-06064, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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