YouTube’s Border Widens with Freedom from First Amendment

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A smartphone with social Internet service Youtube on the screen.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that YouTube isn’t under the First Amendment. Then, the platform announced its first “creator liaison.”

CEO Susan Wojcicki had repeatedly claimed that the company is trying to be more transparent. The next step apparently involves partnering with a YouTube veteran to mediate between creators and administrators.

Matt Koval is a former YouTube creator who began uploading videos on 2008. He joined the company full-time as a lead content strategist in 2012, which revolved around creator content.

From now on, Koval will act as an advocate for creators and the issues they raise when working with YouTube. Wojcicki said the site has been working towards establishing a head creator liaison for some time.

The main goal is to help creators understand YouTube, and vice versa, said Koval. Complicated issues will be discussed on both sides, according to one of his tweets posted this week.

The move was long overdue – concerns over transparency and lack of communication between the company are growing increasingly frustrating. Wojcicki assured creators that the company was making a “big push” to meet creators where they want to communicate.

Enter Koval, who has experience both as a creator and a YouTube employee. He will act as an intermediary between both parties and directly communicate with creators.

He will also run the network’s new Liaison Twitter account, similar to Google’s.

The improvement came at an important time, as YouTubers are now aware of how much the company makes from ads. Now, creators want more out of the company, especially after many of them faced major demonetization and recommendation issues.

These creators have constantly been in the dark about algorithm changes that lead to changes in how content is presented. Now, Koval is needed more than ever.

YouTube’s Role Under the First Amendment

YouTube website home page.

Prior to the change, a conservative nonprofit group Prager University complained that the network’s terms of use censored free speech. Some of its videos covered mature or age-inappropriate content, which YouTube placed in restricted mode.

The appeals court said the site may dictate its own terms on how it hosts content.

Its ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform doesn’t make it less of a private forum. Because of this, it’s not subjected to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment.

Just last year, the Supreme Court said that hosting speech by others doesn’t transform the platform into a public forum. PragerU argued that YouTube should be treated an entity under the First Amendment due to its role in public discourse.

However, the court noted that its situation isn’t similar to most private entities, such as company towns. YouTube doesn’t hold municipal functions, nor is it a public forum – it isn’t owned, leased, or controlled by the government.

Then, PragerU emphasized the company’s own statements dedicating to free expression. Still, the court disagreed, because its status as a private entity isn’t decided by its own.

If so, the court’s rebuttal meant YouTube’s statements of free expression constituted false advertising, said PragerU. The Ninth Circuit disagreed with this as well, because its statements were not advertising as defined by federal law.

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