Reason Mag: Anti-Censorship Lawsuits Could Open YouTube To Porn

Two recent lawsuits that alleged political censorship by the Google-owned YouTube internet video service could have the unintended consequence of opening up the world’s second-most heavily trafficked site to porn videos, according to a new analysis published in the June edition of the libertarian magazine Reason.  YouTube ranks behind only the search engine site run by its parent company, Google, in global popularity. In fact, both sites are so big, that they should be regulated as if they are public utilities—at least according to the lawsuits filed by conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager’s nonprofit Prager University, and former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a congressional rep from Hawaii. Prager sued YouTube last year, claiming that the site flagged his videos, in which he expresses his views on topics ranging from abortion rights to terrorism, as “restricted,” which had the effect of blocking advertising attached to the videos. Without advertising, YouTube videos cannot be “monetized”; that is, they cannot make money for their producers.  Gabbard sued the parent company, Google, alleging that the search engine giant blocked her campaign advertising account for several hours in the aftermath of a presidential debate in which she put on a noteworthy performance. Google claimed that the problem was simply the result of an accidental technical glitch. Both Prager and Gabbard argued that Google and YouTube are such dominant forces on the internet that they must be regulated as if they are public utilities, and prohibited from favoring certain points of view and content over others. But federal courts earlier this year dismissed both lawsuits.  In each case, the courts ruled that because Google and YouTube are, in fact, private companies, their users do not have the free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, which prohibits only governmental restrictions on speech. But both Prager nor Gabbard “seem not to have considered the deleterious effects they might have had on the open internet if they had prevailed in court,” according to Reason assistant editor Billy Binion. In fact, Binion wrote, if they had won their cases, “both Prager and Gabbard might change their mind once companies lose the ability to remove porn.” Why would decisions going the other way lead to porn on YouTube?  “It’s possible that companies would start scrubbing more content in an effort to avoid lawsuits alleging preferential treatment for certain viewpoints,” he wrote. “Conversely, they might also forfeit their right to moderate content at all.” In other words, if the sites could be sued for alleged political censorship, they might find it easier simply to allow any content to be uploaded, rather that risk lawsuits by engaging in content monitoring—clearing the way for porn to hit YouTube. YouTube’s rules currently state that “explicit content meant to be sexually gratifying (like pornography)” is prohibited, and “fetish content” may also be banned or, like Prager’s content, placed in “restricted mode.”  Photo By Irfan Ahmad / Pixabay 

written by: Michael French

source: Reason Mag: Anti-Censorship Lawsuits Could Open YouTube To Porn | AVN