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Appeals Court Rules YouTube Can Censor Content in PragerU Case

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  • A federal appeals court ruled YouTube is not subject to the First Amendment and can censor content on its platform as part of a long-running lawsuit filed by conservative nonprofit PragerU.
  • The lawsuit alleged that YouTube demonetized and limited some of PragerU’s videos because it is biased against conservatives.
  • PragerU called the move censorship and discrimination, arguing that YouTube should be treated like the government, not a private company, in matters of free speech.

PragerU Lawsuit

A federal appeals court in California ruled that privately-owned tech companies like YouTube are not bound to the First Amendment and can censor content.

The decision comes from a 2017 lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company Google that was filed by PragerU, a nonprofit headed by Dennis Prager. The company filed its complaint after YouTube demonetized and restricted some of its videos. 

PragerU accused YouTube of being biased against conservative views, arguing that the decision amounted to discrimination and censorship. The lawsuit claims that YouTube had intentionally demonetized and restricted the videos “as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”

The lawsuit also argued that YouTube regulates free speech on a “public forum,” and so it should be subject to the same scrutiny that the government is under the First Amendment.

To argue this point, the lawsuit cited the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Alabama. In that case, the court ruled that a Jehovah’s Witness had the right to give out leaflets in a town fully owned by a corporation.

A District judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018. In her decision, Judge Lucy Koh cited a more recent Supreme Court ruling in Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, where the court decided that a mall could ban people from distributing anti-Vietnam War fliers on its property. 

In that ruling, the Supreme Court also clarified that Marsh v. Alabama could be only be applied to the town in the case.

Appeals Court

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Koh’s decision, again ruling against PragerU.

“Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the panel’s decision.

“PragerU’s claim that YouTube censored PragerU’s speech faces a formidable threshold hurdle: YouTube is a private entity. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government— not a private party— from abridging speech.”

In their decision, the appellate judges pointed to a Supreme Court ruling from last year, where the highest court found that, “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.”

The judges also shot down a claim that YouTube was guilty of false advertising. 

Response

A YouTube spokesperson defended the social media platform and its parent company in a statement following the court’s ruling.

“Google’s products are not politically biased,” the spokesperson said. “PragerU’s allegations were meritless, both factually and legally, and the court’s ruling vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”

PragerU, however, appears to believe the fight is not over.

“Obviously, we are disappointed,” the organization’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal. “We will continue to pursue PragerU’s claims of overt discrimination on YouTube in the state court case under California’s heightened antidiscrimination, free-speech and consumer-contract law.”

But many have noted, that the ruling was not unexpected at all. According to the Journal, no court has supported PragerU’s legal argument, as it is widely accepted that free speech constraints are applied only to the government and not private entities.

The argument that social media companies like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook should be pinned to the First Amendment is one that has been growing more and more prominent, especially among conservative circles. 

Those who support this argument often believe that certain efforts by large tech companies to regulate content on their platforms are tantamount to censorship.

These arguments are almost certainly going to remain in the polarizing political discourses around free speech and social media. However, as the Journal argues, the appellate court’s decision is “the most emphatic rejection of the argument advanced in some conservative circles that YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other giant tech platforms are bound by the First Amendment.”

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Ars Technica) (The Washington Examiner)

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Twitch Sues Two Users for Creating Hate Raid Bots That Targeted Black and LGBTQ+ Streamers

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Twitch said the two users were so relentless in their racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ hate raids that they forced some creators to stop streaming.


Twitch Sues Two Users

Twitch has filed a lawsuit against two of its users for allegedly creating hate raid bots that targeted Black and LGBTQ+ streamers with racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ content. 

The users named in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, are CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose. While their legal names are currently unknown, Twitch said it traced one to the Netherlands and the other to Austria. It added that it will amend the suit to include their real names once it learns them. 

Twitch said both users began using bots to flood streamers’ chats with hate-filled messages in August. Despite multiple suspensions and bans, Twitch said the two continually created new accounts to continue their hate raid crusades. 

According to the lawsuit, CruzzControl operated nearly 3,000 bots that were used to spam the discriminatory and harassing content. Meanwhile, CreatineOverdose used “their bot software to demonstrate how it could be used to spam Twitch channels with racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the KKK.”

Twitch didn’t just stop at accusations of hateful actions and rule-breaking. It even claimed the two users were so forceful in their efforts to attack creators that they pressured some to stop streaming altogether, “eliminating an important source of revenue for them.”

Twitch Users Demand Change

Twitch creators have long complained about hate raids, but a number of small creators began organizing a cohesive movement in early August following what appeared to be a growing number of hate raids. 

Many demanded that Twitch address the situation by holding round tables with affected creators and enabling different features that would give them the ability to shut down incoming raids. Critics also called on the platform to provide detailed information about how it plans to protect creators moving forward. While Twitch did promise to implement fixes, a large portion of users weren’t satisfied with its messaging. 

The bulk of users’ efforts culminated on Sep. 1 when various creators participated in #ADayOffTwitch, a one-day walkout designed to reduce traffic on the platform. 

Despite Twitch’s lawsuit, a number of users have still said they won’t be completely satisfied with the platform’s actions until more is accomplished. For now, their primary goal is to have Twitch directly outline what steps it’s taking to prevent hate raids.

In its lawsuit, Twitch does make a cursory mention of several changes it said it’s introduced recently, including “implementing stricter identity controls with accounts, machine learning algorithms to detect bot accounts that are used to engage in harmful chat, and augmenting the banned word list.”

“Twitch mobilized its communications staff to address the community harm flowing from the hate raids and assured its community that it was taking proactive measures to stop them,” it added. “Twitch also worked with impacted streamers to educate them on moderation toolkits for their chats and solicited and responded to streamers’ and users’ comments and concerns.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BuzzFeed News) (Kotaku)

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Streamers Protest Racist and Homophobic Hate Raids With #ADayOffTwitch

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The creators participating in the walkout want Twitch to implement policies that actively combat hate-raiding.


#ADayOffTwitch

Numerous Twitch streamers went dark on the platform Wednesday as part of a movement called #ADayOffTwitch, which participants have described as a way to stand “in solidarity with marginalized creators under attack by botting & hate-raids.” 

The protest was organized last month after a smaller creator by the name of RekItRaven, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns, had their streams flooded with racist messages twice.  

“This channel now belongs to the KKK,” dozens of users commented during the streams. 

Source: @RekItRaven

For RekItRaven, those messages also came at a particularly disparaging time, as they had just finished talking about how several traumatic experiences had shaped their life. 

Following the stream, RekItRaven began using #TwitchDoBetter, saying, “I love Twitch. I love the community that I built there… BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE TO ACCEPT BEING TREATED LIKE SHIT ON THE PLATFORM.”

Soon, RekItRaven’s concerns gained traction, prompting a number of other smaller creators to step forward with their experiences about being on the receiving end of hate-raids. Eventually, that morphed into Tuesday’s #ADayOffTwitch protest, which has been spearheaded by RekItRaven and two other small creators known as ShineyPen and Lucia Everblack.

Protesters’ Demands

The protesters are demanding that Twitch make several concessions moving forward. Those demands include the platform:

  • Holding round-tables with affected creators to assist with the creation of tools that combat abuse on the platform.
  • Enabling creators to select the account age for prospective chatters.
  • Allowing creators the ability to deny incoming raids.
  • Removing the ability to attach more than three Twitch accounts to one email address since hate-raiders can currently use a single email to register unlimited accounts. 
  • Providing transparency into the actions being taken to protect creators, including giving a timeframe for that implementation.

For its part, Twitch has already promised to implement fixes, saying on Aug. 20, “Hate spam attacks are the result of highly motivated bad actors, and do not have a simple fix.”

“We’ve been building channel-level ban evasion detection and account improvements to combat this malicious behavior for months,” it added. “However, as we work on solutions, bad actors work in parallel to find ways around them—which is why we can’t always share details.” 

However, for now, creators must still deal with potentially being hate-raided while streaming, which is why their anger toward Twitch has persisted.

Do Small Creators Have a Big Enough Voice?

The protest led by mostly smaller creators is also almost entirely composed of them. Because of this, the vacuum of silence from large creators, who hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the platform, has also led to frustration.

Many have pointed out that large creators will publicly show their support for minority causes during events such as Black History Month and Pride Month, but smaller users said they feel abandoned when those same creators don’t also actively participate in causes that directly combat minority hate. 

“Nobody gives a fuck if you take the day off. Nobody knows who you are That’s the truth,” streamer Asmongold, who has 2.4 million followers on Twitch, on a stream last month. “If people got together and they said, we’re all going to collectively do it, I would do it in a heartbeat. Right, I would do it. I’ve got no problem because I do believe in power in numbers, I absolutely do, which is why I don’t believe in this. Like, you can’t get a bunch of 20 Andy’s together and think that you’re going to do anything. Nobody gives a fuck.”

That said, some influential streamers have added their voices to #ADayOff Twitch. For example, both Rhymestyle and Meg Turney participated in Tuesday’s protest; however, both creators have hundreds of thousands of more followers outside of Twitch rather than on it. 

A number of smaller creators have also argued that it’s not feasible for them to take a day off even though they want to support the cause. For example, taking a day off could jeopardize them keeping their affiliate or partner status, which could, in turn, jeopardize their channels.

Meanwhile, others have argued that outcomes such as those are exactly what hate-raiders want to achieve, so logging off Twitch for a day could be playing into their hands. 

Others still said they wanted to participate but are contractually obligated to stream every day either because of sponsorships or other deals.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (NBC News)

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CallMeCarson Announces Return to Streaming Following Grooming Allegations

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In his return announcement, the YouTuber promised to donate 100% of his proceeds to charity in hopes that he can turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive.” 


CallMeCarson Returns

Popular “Minecraft” YouTuber and streamer Carson King, known online as CallMeCarson, announced Wednesday that he will return to streaming following accusations he faced earlier this year of grooming and sexting underage fans.

In a video titled “Moving Forward,” King said he would begin streaming on Twitch again on Sept. 1 as part of what he is calling a “Year of Charity.” For the next 12 months, King plans to donate 100% of his proceeds to different charities, selecting a new one each month. 

“Before you start looking at this as an excuse to sweep things under the rug, that’s not what this is,” he explained in his video. “I’m doing this to turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive that can help a lot of people.” 

King did not address the details of the allegations that have been levied against him. Instead, he said he wanted to focus on what he can do in the future. 

“I’ve learned a lot this past year,” King said. “I’m not seeking forgiveness nor am I looking to make excuses.”

Grooming Allegations Made Against CallMeCarson

In January, members of his YouTube group The Lunch Club told “DramaAlert” that in March of 2020, King had admitted to grooming underage fans. They claimed to not know many details but stated that his confession ultimately led to the group disbanding. One former member, known as “Slimecicle,” even said he reported Carson to authorities.

The victims themselves ended up coming forward online. One, who identified herself as Sam, said Carson sent her sexually suggestive messages in 2019 when he was 19 and she was 17. She also posted Discord messages the two exchanged where King said he could not “control” himself and asked when she turned 18. 

Another girl, who went by CopiiCatt, said King sent her nude photos when she was 17 and he was 20. 

Following this, King took a hiatus online, and now, his return has been met with mixed reactions.

His “Moving Forward” video has been viewed over 1.2 million times, receiving 252,000 likes and just 14,000 dislikes. 

On Twitter, however, more people expressed frustration with his return and were upset by the swell of support for King despite the accusations against him. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Dot Esports) (HITC)

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