By Jeff Louderback
Two weeks after he filed a lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company Google over allegations they engaged in a “censorship campaign” against his remarks about vaccines, Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will have his case addressed at an emergency hearing on Aug. 16.
Federal Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins set the emergency hearing on Mr. Kennedy’s request for a temporary restraining order “to bar Google from censoring his speech on YouTube during the 2024 campaign,” according to an Aug. 14 statement from the candidate’s campaign.
Mr. Kennedy filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court Northern District of California on Aug. 2, alleging that YouTube violated his First Amendment rights by removing videos of his speech at Saint Anselm College and interviews with clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and conservative podcast host Joe Rogan.
Mr. Cousins will hear the case in a San Jose, California, courthouse.
The 27-page lawsuit contends that Google worked with the federal government to develop and enforce so-called “medical misinformation” policies to censor political opponents, including Mr. Kennedy, who is challenging President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democrat presidential primary.
“Such actions violate the First Amendment when, as here, they result from a public-private partnership that relies on government sources and when the private party, Google, shares the government’s censorship goals,” a spokesperson for Mr. Kennedy’s campaign explained in the statement.
Scott Street, the attorney leading Mr. Kennedy’s litigation, said: “We are grateful that Judge Cousins recognized the importance of this matter and set an early hearing on Mr. Kennedy’s request.
“Google will not suffer any harm from being ordered not to censor Mr. Kennedy during his campaign. But society will suffer if the censorship continues,” Mr. Street added.
Since announcing his candidacy in April, Mr. Kennedy has been widely criticized by opponents for his stances on COVID vaccines.
Mr. Kennedy is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of both President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
An environmental attorney and the founder of Children’s Health Defense, Mr. Kennedy is widely known for his vocal stance on what he says are the dangers of the COVID-19 vaccines and of vaccines in general.
During a July 20 House Judiciary Committee hearing examining the federal government’s role in censoring Americans, Mr. Kennedy’s comments on vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic drew heated exchanges between Democrats and Republicans.
Mr. Kennedy was a star witness at the hearing on the weaponization of the federal government.
Republicans defended Mr. Kennedy and charged Democrats’ outcry over his presence at the hearing as “censorship.”
Democrats criticized Republicans for giving Mr. Kennedy a “megaphone” to talk about his views on vaccines and government mandates.
Before the hearing took place, Democrats attempted to have Mr. Kennedy’s appearance canceled.
During the forum, Democrats tried to move the testimony behind closed doors away from public view. Both attempts were unsuccessful.
During his testimony, Mr. Kennedy referenced a copy of the letter signed by Democrats calling for his appearance before Congress to be canceled.
“This, itself, is evidence of the problem this hearing was meant to address,” Mr. Kennedy said. “This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing.”
In his address, Mr. Kennedy talked about YouTube removing his speech when he announced his candidacy.
“I didn’t talk about vaccines in that speech, I didn’t talk about anything that was a ‘verboten’ subject,” he said.
“Debate—congenial, respectful debate—is the fertilizer, it’s the water, it’s the sunlight for our democracy,” Mr. Kennedy added.
Mr. Kennedy’s Aug. 2 lawsuit is “unique,” a statement from his campaign pointed out, “because, unlike the Fifth Circuit case, he seeks an order against Google itself, not government officials.”
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,” the statement noted.
Google has “censored countless Americans for views that run counter to the narratives of the U.S. government and Mr. Kennedy is “the most high-profile victim of this censorship campaign,” the statement read.
On June 18, after removing Mr. Kennedy’s interview with Jordan Peterson, YouTube said that its Community Guidelines “apply equally to all creators on our platform, regardless of political viewpoint.”
“We removed a video from the Jordan Peterson channel for violating YouTube’s general vaccine misinformation policy, which prohibits content that alleges that vaccines cause chronic side effects, outside of rare side effects that are recognized by health authorities,” a YouTube spokesperson said.
YouTube used its “medical misinformation” policies to justify removing the videos, and that was done in partnership with federal government officials, including “the Biden White House,” to silence critics, Mr. Kennedy contends.
While YouTube is a nongovernmental entity, “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,” the lawsuit reads.
“For example, although it cited its own COVID vaccine misinformation policies when censoring Mr. Kennedy, the policies rely entirely on government officials to decide what information gets censored,” according to the complaint.
“They say that YouTube does not allow people to say anything ‘that contradicts local health authorities’ or the World Health Organization’s medical information about COVID-19.'”
“These policies are subject to change, but only ‘in response to changes to global or local health authorities’ guidance on the virus.’ In other words, the government provides the rules that guide YouTube’s enforcement of the medical misinformation policies,” the lawsuit noted.