Google has no legal obligation to remove animal abuse videos on YouTube
There’s recently been a lawsuit filed by an animal rights group, Lady Freethinker, to try and legally force Google to do more to keep videos of animal abuse off the YouTube website. The lawsuit failed because Alphabet Inc.’s Google is protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law, which shields internet platforms from lawsuits when content is posted on that platform by their users i.e. their clients. That is the tentative ruling by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge, Sunil R. Kulkarni. The word ‘platform’ is crucial to this argument. YouTube is not a ‘publisher’ per se.
“Unless more effective screening is put in place, YouTube will continue to disseminate more videoclips filled with hatred, violence and abuse”. – 2006! Daily Mail Historical Archive.
Lady Freethinker argued that Google profits from animal abuse videos such as pythons attacking puppies, which by the way were fake puppy rescue videos with the whole think scripted at the expense of animal welfare. I have complained myself to YouTube administrators for allowing a video of two kittens being ‘murdered’ by suffocation by a deranged boy. I have complained about this video for about two years and if it is deleted by the administrators, another user or the same uploads the same video again where it remains on their website. All you can do is ask YouTube administrators nicely to remove abusive videos and pray ?. It’s the Wild West on the internet.
Lady Freethinker’s claim was couched in reference to state and local laws such as for breach of contract and false advertising.
However, the federal law mentioned above, section 230, states that “no cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any state or local law that is inconsistent with this section,” the judge ordered.
The case is Lady Freethinker v. Google LLC d/b/a YouTube, et al, 21CV390154, Santa Clara Superior Court (San Jose).
I think this argument centres around the current situation which is that websites like YouTube are platforms for users to self-publish their work. YouTube per se and other social media websites are not deemed to be publishers. If they were legally regarded as publishers, then they could be sued. They are just platforms taking a neutral stance with no direct say or control on what is initially published. They make half-hearted attempts to take proactive action to stop animal abuse videos being uploaded but there is no real control over it.
What I find annoying is that YouTube has rules regarding what can be uploaded but when it suits them, they ignore their own rules. I think this is a breach of their own contract. Perhaps a YouTuber should sue YouTube for breach of contract in the American civil courts. Their rules are designed to protect animals and people (in the sphere of animal videos). If they allow animal abuse videos, they can harm people psychologically. There is a potential claim for damages there.
They can take reactive action by removing videos but even that is done rather badly because they are unable to manage the vast quantities of videos uploaded and this applies to social media websites such as Facebook as well. If animal rights groups want to tackle this problem, they will have to lobby governments and campaign for a change in the law regarding the status of social media websites such as YouTube. Then if the Lady Freethinker lawsuit was filed with that difference in place, I think it would succeed.