Journalists take on Google/Youtube Censorship: Claim Violation of 1st Amendment Due to Blatant Government Coercion & Big Tech Partnership

by Sarah Westall, Sarah Westall:

Defending the first amendment and freedom of speech continues with today’s U.S. Court of Appeals 9th circuit filing of JOHN DOE vs GOOGLE by Armenta and Sol (filing included at the bottom of this article). The plaintiffs are a group of independent journalists and podcasters who lost years of work, millions of subscribers and access to their content, when Google/Youtube deleted their channels October 15th, 2020. The defendant is Google, the parent company of Youtube, who dominates the search engine market (Youtube is also considered a search engine of video content).

TRUTH LIVES on at https://sgtreport.tv/

Google-Market-Share-800x421 Journalists take on Google/Youtube Censorship: Claim Violation of 1st Amendment Due to Blatant Government Coercion & Big Tech Partnership

The plaintiffs not only lost years of work, but then continued to be persecuted by Google’s relentless shadowbanning policy which essentially erases them from the “mainstream” internet.

The plaintiffs include (based on Youtube channel name): JustInformed Talk, SGT Report, X22 Report, SpaceShot 76, TruReporting, RedPill78, Edge of Wonder, Praying Medic, Amazing Polly, Woke Societies, Daniel Lee, Deception Byes, InTheMatrixxx, Destroying the Illusion and Sarah Westall.

While many of the plaintiffs have managed to regain a sizable follower base through back channel efforts, organic growth and independent sites, others have lost everything and had to close up shop.

The lawsuit clearly shows how this group of independent journalists and podcasters were a serious threat to the establishment:

Plaintiffs’ reach was so widespread that they collectively had more than 4.5 million subscribers to their channels and had attracted more than 800 million views. Taken together, these subscriber counts far exceed the individual viewership of the YouTube accounts maintained by legacy cable, journalism, and news networks such as C-SPAN (806K subscribers), The New York Times (3.21M subscribers), Fox News (6.52M subscribers), MSNBC (3.62M subscribers), NBC News (4.1M), and CBS News (3.06M subscribers). Although millions of Americans get news, information and commentary on issues of national importance from Plaintiffs’ channels, YouTube unceremoniously terminated them just 19 days before the 2020 presidential election.

The journalist’s argument is in favor of freedom and against tyranny imposed by monopolistic policies and government coercion. To win this suit, the judge will need to actually look at the evidence and not blindly side with section 230 immunity claims. Section 230 immunity should not apply when big tech is acting on the behalf of the government.

The judge will see that the argument clearly shows the direct involvement of government officials and congress to coerce Google (other big tech firms) to censor speech, a clear violation of the first amendment:

Representative Schiff’s 2020 Demands

Plaintiffs’ excision from YouTube did not, of course, occur in a vacuum: in recent years, there has been an unrelenting drumbeat in favor of censorship at the highest levels of government. Plaintiffs were hit by a wave of censorship beginning in early 2019, when Representative Adam Schiff sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that Google/YouTube censor unpopular views about health issues and concluded that what he deemed “conspiracy theories” violated Community Guidelines. He sent a similar letter to Mr. Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on April 29, 2020. The letters were published on official letterhead and signed by “Adam B. Schiff, Member of Congress” in his official capacity and as the Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and an ex officio member of the Committee on Appropriations. 

Schiff’s 2020 Letter was also published on his official Twitter account, @RepAdamSchiff, which has more than 2.3 million followers. Ms. Wojcicki almost immediately retweeted Rep. Schiff’s post on her Twitter account, see https://twitter.com/SusanWojcicki/status/1256304911446208512.


Responding directly to Rep. Schiff, Ms. Wojcicki publicly acknowledged her company’s “partnership” with him and other government actors or Congress itself: “Thanks for reaching out. @YouTube, we’re working every day to protect people from misinformation and help them find authoritative information. We appreciate your partnership and will continue to consult with and ask the advice of Members of Congress as we address the evolving issues around #COVID19.” (Emphasis added.) Ms. Wojcicki also appeared on CNN and acknowledged that YouTube would comply with Rep. Schiff’s request—to “raise authoritative information”—and promised that YouTube would identify, remove and delete videos that were “medically unsubstantiated” or that disagreed with the World Health Organization.

In his 2020 letter, Rep. Schiff urged social-media platforms, including Defendants, to remove what he claimed was “harmful misinformation” (how it was harmful, he did not say) and to direct their users to “authoritative” sources. In the FAC, Plaintiffs allege that the purpose and effect of Schiff’s 2020 Letter was to pressure Google/YouTube into doing his bidding through the veiled threat that attends a public directive issued by a powerful member of Congress with significant power to institute and force the passage of laws to regulate Defendants in innumerable ways that would affect their business operations. 

Speaker Pelosi’s Threat to Punish Big Tech

Representative Schiff is not the only influential Congressman who put a target on Google/YouTube’s back: in 2019 and 2020, Nancy Pelosi, the powerful Speaker of the House, made numerous public statements indicating that Big Tech was in her sights if social-media companies did not toe the line. During a podcast with Silicon Valley journalist Kara Swisher, Speaker Pelosi made the following statement about CDA 230 immunity:

It is a gift to them and I don’t think that they are treating it with the respect that they should, and so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy… I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed.

The threat from Speaker Pelosi was clear – if Defendants did not censor as she deemed “responsible,” the most powerful woman in Congress said Section 230 immunity “could be removed.” Similarly, on June 16, 2020, Speaker Pelosi participated in a Georgetown University event online titled “Forum on COVID-19 Social Media Disinformation.” There, Speaker Pelosi stated, “The American people, including social media platform employees, are demanding an end to the exploitation of the public’s health, financial security, and lives. Congress, employees, advertisers, and the public must work as one to shine a bright light on the division and the disinformation proliferating online. And together, we must send a message to social media executives. You will be held accountable for your misconduct.”

Although Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Schiff may not have the power to pass legislation on their own, they unquestionably wielded influence sufficient to coerce and substantially encourage the Defendants and, on information and belief, have done so. This power is wielded through official inquiries and demands from Congress, along with public statements, examples of all of which are set forth in the preceding paragraphs. Furthermore, both Rep. Schiff and Speaker Pelosi represent California, where Defendants have their principal places of business. In addition, the state actors referenced above and Committees of Congress (all of whose members, at least those in the majority party, answer to Speaker Pelosi) have the power to call the Defendants’ executives before Congress to testify, as they did in 2018 and 2020, and as recently as the day the First Amended Complaint was filed. 

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