When conservative talk radio personality Dennis Prager launched an
educational video project in 2009 that was named for him, he probably couldn’t have imagined that the widely utilized delivery platform he employed – YouTube – would be the biggest hindrance to reaching his audience.
But in 2016 we are in a hotly contested election year, and the parent company of the popular and diverse service is deeply embedded in the Clinton campaign. That may or may not be why some of the increasingly popular videos produced by Prager University have been restricted by the subsidiary of unabashedly liberal-leaning Google. But if it isn’t, the obstruction is at minimum a byproduct of the intolerant Left’s incessant wailing against anything that touches race relations, gender, homosexuality, abortion, religious absolutes, or Islam.
Not surprisingly, reports of the discrimination against PragerU have only been reported in conservative-leaning media such as the Washington Times, Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, and Breitbart.com. After what the nonprofit organization says were months of trying to negotiate with YouTube to lift “restricted” status on 21 of its videos over “objectionable content,” PragerU went public on October 11.
“There is no excuse for Google and YouTube censoring and restricting any PragerU videos, which are produced with the sole intent of educating people of all ages about America’s founding values,” the organization said in its statement.
YouTube has a “Policy Center” page in which it explains why it may restrict or block access to posted videos according to “hate speech,” “threats”, “nudity and sexual content,” “violent or graphic content,” “harmful or dangerous content,” and other categories.
Among the PragerU titles that were apparently for mature audiences only included “Are the Police Racist?,” “Why Did America Fight the Korean War?,” “Did Bush Lie About Iraq?,” “What is the University Diversity Scam?,” and “Israel’s Legal Founding.”
According to PragerU, Google responded to its complaint by saying “we don’t censor anyone,” but they do “take into consideration what the intent of the video is” and “what the focus of the video is.”
Intent? Focus? If that is not censorship based solely upon expressing ideology – even more, ideology that does not harm or incite harm against others – then censorship has no meaning. What about what the content actually says?
PragerU’s stated mission “is to explain and spread what we call ‘Americanism’ through the power of the Internet,” using compelling but simple animation to illustrate illuminating graphics based upon relevant data and historical facts. The videos are kept at roughly five minutes or less – what the organization admittedly calls “conservative sound bites” – so they will receive broader distribution via social media, and therefore increased viewership.
“We help millions of people understand the fundamental values that shaped America, and provide them with the intellectual ammunition they need to defend and spread those values,” the Web site explains. “PragerU is a resource for every American—and every person in the world who values liberty—for understanding and explaining the values we share.”
But apparently PragerU is doing too effective a job at that. For example, one of the restricted videos – “Are the Police Racist?” – delivers a staggering number of facts and figures that debunk claims by Black Lives Matter and other demagogues that say there is an epidemic in the country in which white officers are gunning down unarmed blacks. The video is narrated by Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald, author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. The PragerU video – which has had more than 5 million views so far, despite the restricted status – contains no provocative imagery, no inflammatory statements, no “hate,” “threats,” “violence,” “harmful,” or “graphic” material.
That is, unless truth and enlightenment fall under those categories.
A petition started by PragerU to pressure YouTube to lift its restrictions has collected more than 70,000 signatures. Since launching the appeal, PragerU says YouTube has removed 5 of the videos from its quarantine, but 16 of their videos – which represent 10 percent of its entire collection – are still limited.
In a report on Wednesday by The College Fix, Google said in a statement, “people who have chosen to enable the Restricted Mode setting on YouTube may not see these videos. While educational, the videos are about sensitive topics such as rape and terrorism which may not be suitable for all audiences.” Prager responded that the videos “have absolutely no violence nor the slightest sexual content.”
“The combination of an ever growing state and gigantic businesses and universities run by people with left-wing values has already rendered America less free than it has ever been,” Prager said. “For those of us old enough to remember when ‘It’s a free country’ was a cliche, this is sad beyond words.”
The situation with PragerU and YouTube follows evidence this year that Google and other technology companies have intervened using their powerful businesses – many which claim they are neutral platforms for open, free speech – by muting conservative voices and amplifying liberal ones. Over the last few months researchers discovered that Google manipulated search engine results to favor the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Also Wikileaks revealed that Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, is working directly with the Clinton campaign.
Other tech companies have shown their prejudices also. Former Facebook employees admitted they suppressed news stories of interest to conservatives from its “trending” section, which spurred CEO Mark Zuckerberg to famously hold a “summit” with leaders on the right. Some Facebook employees also wanted Donald Trump’s posts removed as hate speech, which was said to be unsuccessful, but we may never know whether or not any were censored. Also, social media CEOs like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have embraced Black Lives Matter and censored its critics. Top officials of Crowdpac, Netflix, Twitter, Slack and YouTube donated sizable sums to the Baltimore mayoral campaign of DeRay McKesson, chief strategist for BLM.
The new interactive media love conservatives’ time, money and engagement. But they want them without their ideas and skillful message delivery.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.