YouTube is facing a lawsuit from a group of channel owners who claim that the platform’s recent mitigation actions against QAnon accounts violated their rights. Many of these video owners claim to have hundreds of thousands of fans, and they are seeking temporary restraining orders to restore their accounts, according to the report.
“YouTube’s massive de-platformization three weeks before the 2020 presidential election has severely harmed the interests of conservative content creators and American voters looking for their content,” the indictment stated, “YouTube has taken drastic actions so quickly. , So that the plaintiff…cannot download his own content without receiving prior notice.”
According the reports content protection platform under Article 230 of the Communications Decency Act will not be subject to lawsuits for mitigating behavior. Republicans have proposed to add a “responsibility for faith” clause to the Article 230, which will make this type of lawsuit easier to succeed. But none of these efforts became law. Therefore, the legal value of the lawsuit is still uncertain.
Before the policy change on October 15, at least one channel on YouTube was in trouble due to conspiracy content. The SGT Report channel, run by the main plaintiff of the case, was suspended in 2018 after propagating baseless allegations that Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin threatened a young child – but the channel resumed after user complaints. Another account called TRU Reporting advertised many conspiracy theories related to “Pizza Gate” on Twitter.
For a long time, YouTube has been fighting against conspiracy content, but only in recent years has it taken specific measures to reduce the spread of this content. In 2018, the platform began adding “authoritative” links to conspiracy-related topics – such as the moon landing or the Oklahoma City bombings – in the hope that this real information will lead users away from crazier theories. The following year, YouTube changed its algorithm to downgrade conspiracy theory content, and platform administrators took a tougher stance on conspiracy theory videos and even banned Shane Dawson’s videos exploring popular conspiracy theories.
On October 15, 2020, YouTube went one step further by expanding its hate and harassment policy to prohibit the use of conspiracy theories for content directed at individuals or groups. Since these policies were mainly aimed at QAnon conspiracy theories, tens of thousands of QAnon videos and hundreds of channels were immediately deleted. However, in the lawsuit, the plaintiff described the mitigation move as a broader targeting of conservative YouTube channels, which catered to the Republican Party’s long-standing concerns about anti-conservative bias on the platform.
The plaintiff invoked the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, claiming that the cancellation of these TV channels in the weeks before the election would cause irreparable harm to the public. In response to this lawsuit, Google did not immediately respond to the reporter’s request for comments.