LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, PragerU’s law firm of Browne George Ross LLP officially filed suit against Google Inc. and its subsidiary YouTube, LLC. with the State Court of California. With this newest development, PragerU’s online censorship case – which began in October of 2017 – is now running dual tracks at both California State Court as well as with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We originally filed a lawsuit that had two federal claims, one under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the other for unfair competition and advertising under the Lanham Act,” says lead PragerU attorney Peter Obstler. “We also filed five claims in that lawsuit under California law, including a free speech claim under the Liberty of Speech clause of the California Constitution that takes a much broader view of state action. We also filed state law claims for discrimination under the Unruh Act, unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices, and breach of contract.
“We’ve taken an appeal to the Ninth Circuit on the merits of the two federal law claims, and the state law claims were dismissed without prejudice. In other words, the court made very clear that the state law claims were dismissed out of deference to state law courts, that the state courts should decide issues of their own law – not the federal court. Today we’ve come full circle by filing a state law action, as the judge requested we do, in a state court to litigate those issues there. So we’re now going to have a two track litigation.”
Specifically, the district court found that “comity” dictated those claims be litigated in state court to “enable California courts to interpret questions of state law,” including the “especially important consideration in the instant case that demands an analysis of the reach of Article I, section 2 of the California Constitution in the age of social media and the Internet.
“We’re very optimistic we will win our federal suit based upon our case’s First Amendment merits,” says PragerU CEO Marissa Streit, “But there is reason to believe certain claims are even stronger in California. Specifically claims relating to YouTube’s breach of contract and consumer fraud. They claim to be a public forum for free expression, but they behave instead as a publisher with editorial controls. You cannot have it both ways. This presented us with a unique legal opportunity to pursue both legal avenues simultaneously. With today’s filing, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Rest assured, we will not stop fighting to secure all Americans’ freedom of speech and expression online.” More than a half million grassroots supporters have added their names to PragerU’s online petition, and thousands more have donated in support of the organization’s legal fund.
“YouTube was built on the backs of users like PragerU who were promised ‘give us your videos because we are a ‘public forum,’ a place where the public is invited to engage in ‘freedom of expression’ and where everyone is ‘treated equally,” Obstler continues. “We expect that to be the truth. We don’t expect to get censored or restricted simply because you don’t like the viewpoint or political or religious ideology of the speaker.”