Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Children’s Health Defense founder and chairman on leave, this week filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google, alleging the social media giant violated his First Amendment rights when they censored interviews he did with Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and others.
Brenda Baletti, Ph.D.
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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Children’s Health Defense founder and chairman on leave, this week filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google, alleging the social media giant violated his First Amendment rights.
According to Kennedy, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S., YouTube engaged in a “censorship campaign” that included removing videos of his speech at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and interviews he did with clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and podcaster Joe Rogan.
The complaint, filed Aug. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges the U.S. government has taken “extraordinary steps” under Joe Biden’s leadership “to silence people it does not want Americans to hear,” including himself and many others.
That censorship makes it difficult for Kennedy to reach millions of voters and also for his supporters to amplify his message, the complaint says.
The lawsuit predicts the censorship will continue throughout Kennedy’s campaign, intensifying as the primaries approach.
“Mr. Kennedy often speaks at length about topics people would like to ignore, including the negative health effects of toxic chemicals and potential safety concerns about the COVID-19 shots,” the complaint reads. Then YouTube uses its “medical misinformation” policies — developed in partnership with federal government agencies and the Biden administration — to justify removing his videos.
In doing so, the platform censored not only Kennedy’s comments on medical issues, but the entire content of his speeches and interviews, according to the suit.
Although YouTube is a private company, it is not simply a publisher, the complaint alleges — it has become “an important platform for political discourse in America, a digital town square that voters trust as a place to get news and opinions about the issues of the day.”
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According to the complaint:
“YouTube operates as a public forum, the digital equivalent of a town square. As such, it cannot remove protected speech, especially political speech, based on its viewpoint. …
“There is a sufficiently close nexus between YouTube and the federal government such that YouTube’s actions may be fairly treated as that of the government itself.”
Although YouTube cited its own COVID-19 vaccine misinformation policies to censor Kennedy, those policies “rely entirely on government officials to decide what information gets censored,” according to the lawsuit.
For example, the suit says YouTube doesn’t allow content that “contradicts local health authorities’ (LHA) or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) medical information about COVID-19,” and the guidance on those policies only changes based on government decisions.
Kennedy also called YouTube’s medical misinformation policies “unconstitutional” because they are “vague” and “overbroad” and “because they give unnamed government officials, who the policies depend entirely on, the unfettered discretion to decide what information gets removed from YouTube.”
Kennedy is seeking injunctive relief to prohibit YouTube from further censoring his speech, and the restoration of any videos of his political speech removed during the campaign.
Kennedy also seeks a declaration that Google and YouTube violated his First Amendment rights and that its medical disinformation policies are unconstitutional.
The Defender on occasion posts content related to Children’s Health Defense’s nonprofit mission that features Mr. Kennedy’s views on the issues CHD and The Defender regularly cover. In keeping with Federal Election Commission rules, this content does not represent an endorsement of Mr. Kennedy, who is on leave from CHD and is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S.
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