On August 2, 2023, Robert Kennedy Jr. filed a 27 page complaint against YouTube. This lawsuit has huge implications - not only for whether Kennedy will be able bring his message to the American people during his Presidential campaign – but whether the First Amendment has any meaning left and whether there will be fair elections in the US. You can read his complaint at this link: https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cand.416322/gov.uscourts.cand.416322.1.0.pdf
This important case is about the meaning of the First Amendment and the ability of the government to use social platforms such as YouTube to censor and silence its critics.
In this article, we will review the most important claims in Kennedy’s complaint and the evidence he submitted to support his claims.
It is a fact that YouTube has one of the largest social networks in the world with hundreds of millions of people viewing videos posted on its platform. It is also a fact that YouTube has been censoring Kennedy’s campaign including taking down a video of a speech Kennedy gave in New Hampshire.
Kennedy’s speech in New Hampshire was clearly a political speech about the “corrupt merger of corporate and state power” and the threat this merger holds for the future of our nation. Kennedy’s New Hampshire speech should have been protected under the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.
Kennedy’s first point in his lawsuit is that YouTube is censoring Kennedy under the guidance of the Biden Administration. On page 2, Line 20, the complaint states that YouTube censored Kennedy “based on statements from the Biden Administration about what information to censor. It will continue to do so throughout the presidential campaign, especially as the primary elections get closer.”
In short, Kennedy is accusing YouTube of working with Biden to censor Kennedy’s campaign. The overall purpose of the lawsuit is to preserve the ability of Kennedy and other political candidates to “communicate with Americans on matters of public concern.”
Among these matters of public concern are Kennedy’s speeches on “the negative health effects of toxic chemicals and potential safety concerns about the COVID-19 shots.”
On page 4 of the complaint, Kennedy points out that YouTube has a powerful influence on voter decisions. For example, “between April 2015 and March 2016, viewers consumed roughly 110 million hours of election-related content on YouTube…. That continued in 2020 and it will only increase during the 2024 campaign, especially as more political commentators (Meghyn Kelly and Tucker Carlson, for example) leave network and cable television to broadcast directly to Americans through the Internet and social media platforms. Thus, YouTube 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, a place where people can communicate about matters of public concern.”
Kennedy traces the new censorship of Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter to the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In fact, Big Tech has been heavily censoring anti-Wall Street and anti-government protesters as far back as the Occupy Wall Street movement years earlier. Big Tech censorship of anti-establishment political views has been growing ever since. Kennedy’s lawsuit is claiming that when Big Tech censors candidates running for President, then they are going too far. In fact, Kennedy is rightly claiming that censoring any political candidate is a violation of their First Amendment right to communicate with the voters.
His complaint states: "This complaint concerns the freedom of speech and the extraordinary steps the United States government has taken under the leadership of Joe Biden to silence people it does not want Americans to hear… Mr. Kennedy is not the only victim of this censorship campaign, which is unprecedented in American history. But he is a high-profile victim, especially since he is now challenging President Biden for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination."
Among the extraordinary steps the Biden administration has taken are: “developing misinformation policies like the one YouTube has used, and will continue to use, to censor statements that Mr. Kennedy makes in the 2024 presidential campaign.”
Among the videos taken down were Kennedy’s speech at the New Hampshire Institute for Politics as well as his interview by Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan. This censorship campaign “ prevents Mr. Kennedy’s message from reaching millions of voters. It also makes it harder for groups that are supporting his campaign to amplify his message through public sources.”
On page 7, the complaint states that YouTube has been working with the Biden administration to censor Kennedy: “The decisions to censor Mr. Kennedy on these matters of public concern were not made by YouTube, acting of its own accord, but as part of the partnership between YouTube and federal government officials, including the Biden White House, to censor dissenting views that started during the COVID-19 pandemic… As documents discovered by two state attorneys general show, federal officials, including White House officials Rob Flaherty and Clarke Humphrey, were the ones who directed tech companies to remove statements Mr. Kennedy made about the government’s COVID policies.”
Kennedy then provides emails coming from the White House. In fact, there was and still is a massive censorship campaign involving not only the White House but also hundreds of current and former FBI and CIA agents. This massive censorship campaign not only of political figures but also of hundreds of leading doctors and scientists has made a mockery of the First Amendment.
As Thomas Jefferson (the author of the First Amendment) pointed out, without Freedom of Speech there can be no “informed consent” and without “informed consent” there can be no democracy. This is why Thomas Jefferson put Freedom of Speech in the first amendment as all other rights depend on this most important right.
Kennedy’s complain then states: “By July 2021, the White House press secretary was calling on the tech platforms to ban Mr. Kennedy completely and... YouTube was working behind the scenes with CISA and other government officials to do just that.”
Banning Kennedy from YouTube harms the political process of sharing diverse points of view because “YouTube is the digital equivalent of the town square. It is a platform for speech. And YouTube has monetized that role, earning billions of dollars for Google in the process.”
On page 8, the complaint states: “By allowing the public to post videos there, YouTube turned youtube.com into a public forum of some sort. Whether it is a traditional public forum, a limited public forum or something else does not matter. It cannot exclude people from the platform based on their viewpoint. It cannot decide which speech people hear. It cannot do that itself and it especially cannot do that, as it has with Plaintiffs, based on a public/private partnership in which YouTube relies on the government to decide what information to censor.”
In short, Kennedy states that because YouTube has been turned into a public platform – and in fact YouTube is certainly one of the most important public platforms in the world today – YouTube can not exclude people based on their political statements. Most important, YouTube should not be allowed to collude with the government to censor and silence people who are criticizing the government.
As evidence of the Biden administration influence over YouTube, the complain points out that the Biden administration has “threatened to take away certain legal protections that YouTube has under federal law (namely immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act).”
“Indeed, YouTube bases its right to censor people on section 230. Thus, a federal law—section 230—is the very source of authority through which tech censorship occur… Under these circumstances, YouTube is a state actor and it violated Mr. Kennedy’s First Amendment rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination.”
On page 12, the lawsuit then asks the court to stop YouTube from censoring Kennedy “while he is running for office.”
But the First Amendment does not merely apply to people running for office. Freedom of speech should be a right of all Americans to express their opinions on issues that affect the future of their children and the future of our nation.
Given the importance of the First Amendment to the future of our democracy, we should all follow this case very closely. It does not matter whether or not you like Kennedy or agree with Kennedy. The very foundation of our right to free speech has been placed at risk in recent years. We can only hope that the judge assigned to this case has read Thomas Jefferson’s writings on the importance of Freedom of Speech.
I will keep you posted.. As always, I look forward to your questions and comments. Feel free to email me using David Spring at Proton Mail dot com.
David Spring M. Ed.
Turning Point News dot org