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March 15, 2019

1st Amendment Doesn’t Apply To Google, Judge Tells Right-Wingers

The First Amendment prohibits censorship of political speech, but only if the censor is the government itself—not a private company, even an giant, seemingly all-powerful one such as Google or Facebook. That was the ruling handed down Thursday by a federal judge, who tossed out a lawsuit by right-wing activists who complained that they were being unfairly censored online, according to a report by the legal site Law360  (link is behind paywall).  The far-right “watchdog” group Freedom Watch and right-wing political stunt artist Laura Loomer had sued Google and Facebook, and well as Twitter, Apple, and Instagram, for a whopping $1.5 billion, alleging that the internet tech giants were engaged in a conspiracy to silence conservative viewpoints online. “I found it necessary to join this lawsuit to end the discrimination by big tech social media companies against conservatives like myself,” Loomer said in November, when she joined the Freedom Watch class action suit, which alleged that the online mega-companies violated antitrust laws by “agreeing among themselves and acting as a monopoly to restrain trade and discriminate against conservatives,” according to the right-wingsite Big League Politics.  But Judge Trevor N. McFadden of the United States District Court in Washington D.C. disagreed, saying that “Merely invoking terms like ‘conspiracy’ and ‘agreement’ is not enough” to prove that such a conspiracy actually exists, according to a Bloomberg report.   McFadden also ruled that First Amendment free speech protections applied only to actions taken by the government to suppress speech, and even if the online platforms had been engaging in censorship, nothing in the Constitution prohibits them from doing so. “While selective censorship of the kind alleged by the plaintiffs may be antithetical to the American tradition of freedom of speech, it is not actionable under the First Amendment unless perpetrated by a state actor,” the judge wrote in his ruling dismissing the case.  Freedom Watch and Loomer claimed that the online platforms met the definition of “places of public accommodation,” where free speech could not be regulated, but McFadden said that the right-wing plaintiffs failed to establish that Google, Facebook, and the other platforms were “quasi” states. "The decision is legally wrong and we are confident of winning on appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary," Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman said after the ruling.  Klayman grabbed nationally notoriety in 2013 when he declared that President Barack Obama “bows down to Allah,” and called for a “second American nonviolent revolution,” that would force Obama to “leave town,” Politico reported.   Photo by Today Testing/Wikimedia Commons 

 
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