Google Tells Critics That Regulating YouTube Would Be Disastrous

(Bloomberg) -- Google’s executives haven’t made it to Washington yet to answer to President Donald Trump’s claim that the world’s biggest search engine silences conservative voices.

But the internet giant went on the record Wednesday to make clear that even if it does discriminate on the basis of political viewpoints -- which it denies -- it can’t be forced to change. Not only would it be wrong to compel a private company to guarantee free speech in the way that government censorship is forbidden by the Constitution, but it would also have “disastrous practical consequences,” Google said in a court filing.

“The First Amendment appropriately limits the government’s ability to censor speech, but applying those limitations to private online platforms would undermine important content regulation,” the company said. “If they are bound by the same First Amendment rules that apply to the government, YouTube and other service providers would lose much of their ability to protect their users against offensive or objectionable content -- including pornography, hate speech, personal attacks, and terrorist propaganda.”

Google’s argument that YouTube isn’t a “public forum” and therefore is not subject to the First Amendment isn’t novel -- it’s based on a long history of rulings by U.S. courts. In its filing, Google is urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss a challenge by Prager University, a nonprofit producer of conservative videos on public affairs topics that accused the Alphabet Inc. unit of using its filter for age-appropriate content to illegally restrict access to Prager’s content.

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