Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. v. Google Alleges First Amendment Violations via YouTube Censorship as a State Actor

This has been such a depressing election season that the blockbuster lawsuit filed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on Friday night is a welcome surprise. It also means that RFK, Jr. will be discomfiting the Biden Administration and the censorship apparatus long after his quixotic bid to win the Democratic party nomination will have gone down to its likely defeat (not only are superdelegates a big obstacle, but so to is Biden’s refusal to debate, and the considerable advantages of incumbency.)

RFK, Jr.’s suit challenges the way Google’s YouTube subsidiary has been removing videos with content that contradicts official narratives, specifically videos made of RFK, Jr.’s campaign events and interview where he says politically incorrect things about the Covid vaccine or vaccines generally and the entire video is removed. The filing explains cogently why this is activity is state directed. Views that contradict the official views of bodies like WHO and the CDC and of course the Biden Administration generally are expunged. And YouTube has made the role of the Federal government explicit by invoking Section 230,

The filing does a good job of setting forth, at a high level, how the opinion control apparatus is a pernicious public-private partnership. For instance:

Moreover, in 2018, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018. This law created a new agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), within the Department of Homeland Security to protect America from cyber threats. According to CISA, its mission “requires effective coordination and collaboration among a broad spectrum of government and private sector organizations.” These organizations include YouTube and CISA’s mission apparently includes removing speech about issues of public concern that the federal government deems dangerous.

I hope as this suit goes on that the plaintiff’s team or sympathetic analysts will look into the Congressional debates about CISA. I doubt that censoring candidates’ videos or even what in saner days would have been waved off as crank views on public health matters would have been seen as legitimate uses.

This filing targets only YouTube via its Google parent but the filing repeatedly depicts the Federal government and YouTube/Google engaged in a joint enterprise of censorship. This means that RFK, Jr. is pursuing Federal government too. If this suit survives a motion to dismiss and gets to discovery (which seems extremely likely), discovery is likely to expose all sorts of Biden Administration meddling. It is not hard to see RFK, Jr. filing a second suit directly against the US government if his discovery unearths Twitter-Files-level or worse muscling.1

Moreover, there is every reason to think YouTube/Google was far more cooperative that Twitter was (the Twitter Files showed staff regularly debating and even turning down quite a few official intervention “requests”). Twitter has a history of fighting subpoenas for information about its account-holders when its competitors roll over far more frequently. On top of that, Google is widely seen as a close ally and even arm of the US surveillance state abroad and presumably here (although one assumes Google is a tad more careful in the US).

As is implied above, this case has the potential to do considerable damage to the Biden campaign once the plaintiffs start discovery. That means that YouTube/Google may be even more motivated than usual to use various procedural moves to delay it, ideally past the point when any juicy findings could be waved as a bloody shirt by Team R (assuming again that Biden or Harris or an anointed Dem like Gavin Newsom becomes the Democrat nominee).

Given that RFK, Jr. argues that the campaign against him intensified once he threw his hat into the ring, one wonders if he could fund his litigation in part out of campaign funds. Even if that would be arguably permissible, a less risky move would be dedicated fundraising for it. Regardless, the filing will make it harder for the media to downplay his campaign. One can imagine the right wing will take it up and thus the MSM will at least have to deign to take notice.

This filing should also have a dampening effect on YouTube/Google and potentially other officially-instigated censorship. At a minimum, all of these anti-free-speech platforms will feel the need to be more coded and careful in how they communicate internally and externally about these schemes. That alone will inhibit their operation.

And if RFK, Jr. prevails, and the odds of that seem not bad, it’s not hard to imagine a raft of follow-on suits using his as a precedent, including class action suits on behalf of smaller victims.

Finally, the Northern District ought to be a favorable location. Among other things, anti-vax sentiments are far more popular there than in most of the rest of the US, particularly among the body purists that IM Doc calls soy boy man bun types.


1 I am not expert on procedure but one would think RFK, Jr. would not want to slow the progress of his Google suit by adding the US government as a defendant.

00 RFK Jr. v. YouTube
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  1. MrQRO

    Be careful RFK Jr.! Next they will claim your posts/speech is being feed to you
    by a “foreign actor”, you are an agent of that actor, and toss you in jail.
    That’ll fix your wagon once and for all, you Russia/China/Iran..(fill in the blank
    with the enemy de jour) DNC opposer! /s

    1. SocalJimObjects

      Nowadays you don’t need to kill or throw someone in jail. Perhaps RFK will try to use his ATM one day and finds himself to be one of the unbanked just like Nigel Farage.

      “Given that RFK, Jr. argues that the campaign against him intensified once he threw his hat into the ring, one wonders if he could fund his litigation in part out of campaign funds:

      Perhaps he can do it through a PAC, just like what Trump has been doing? The article does say that it’s not straightforward, so maybe Trump will be facing more issues down the line.

      1. John Zelnicker

        >Perhaps RFK will try to use his ATM one day and finds himself to be one of the unbanked just like Nigel Farage.

        Perhaps he’s been smart enough to put some funds out of reach of the US banking system, e.g., the Cayman Islands.

        And, if he is that smart, perhaps he is also smart enough to declare any income on his tax return to avoid problems. It’s not illegal to hold accounts in secrecy jurisdictions, it’s only illegal to evade paying taxes on the income.

    2. Watch Intr0

      Unless they also bring indictments against him, RFK probably won’t be able to beat Biden then Trump. This case won’t hurt though.

      p.s. is anyone else having all their attempted comments vanish?

      1. Knot Galt

        p.s. All the time. Of course, if this gets posted, the irony will delegitimize the protest.

        With a name like Knot Galt, I get it.

    3. Ridgerunner

      I get your drift but that’s a pretty big assumption. The biggest flaw in it is that it does not allow for the exact opposite to happen.

  2. ddt

    This is great. Pass the popcorn. Also, if you are a Facebook user and were actively using it 2016 in the US, you can file a claim for the Cambridge Analytica payout until the 25th of this month.

    1. Societal Illusions

      pathetic compensation and penalty for the deed. lawyers win with up to a $181.25 million payday plus expenses, leaving $2.59 per settlement if all identified claimants submit. There is a 2019 study showing a median of 28% can be expected to actually do so which would raise the settlement amount to a whopping $10. I wonder how many would have sold their rights for that amount…

      1. TimH

        Class action penalties are intended to be large enough to deter repeat offending, not reward the class. Having said that, this fine does look like it’s at the cost-of-doing-business level rather than really punitive to FB.

  3. The Rev Kev

    ‘It is not hard to see RFK, Jr. filing a second suit directly against the US government if his discovery unearths Twitter-Files-level or worse muscling.’

    The Twitter Files showed us a government intelligence network set up in Twitter to control that social media site and that had pipelines to the government itself. I would expect the same to be true of YouTube and its parent corporation Google. This being the case, I would postulate that every social media network would be the same and as a result, you would expect them all to coordinate with some government committee that would report direct to the White House rather than each social media network reporting individually there. If RFK jnr gets to do discovery, who knows how far up the chain he will be able to investigate. If this sounds unlikely, think how Watergate started out as a simple burglary case which eventually led all the way to the White House.

    1. nippersdad

      It will be interesting to see just how far below the surface that Homeland Security disinformation board actually went. Maybe we will get to hear Mayorkas and Jankowicz sing a different tune once they are on the the stand and subject to perjury charges.

    2. Bsn

      Another good sign of this development is that RFK Jr. is a big time lawyer with an excellent record in knee capping big time polluters and pharma to the tune of billions of dollars. I’m sure he has a very strong staff that should not be taken lightly. Like that old song about Joe Dimaggio, “We want him on our side”.

  4. ex-PFC Chuck

    “One can imagine the right wing will take it up and thus the MSM will at least have to deign to take notice.”

    If the right does this, and especially if they do so in such a way that ramps themselves together with Mr Kennedy in the First Amendment and the flag, it could have a powerful effect on the independent/undecided segments of the electorate, and seriously put the establishment Democrats on their back feet.

  5. Carolinian

    Well good luck on his suit although it’s a little hard to know what to make of RFK jr. Here’s a new post suggesting his anti-establishment cred is a bit of a front, at least in the context of the current political situation.

    Clearly the Bidenistas fear having any competition–including from Trump–since their candidate is so weak. In a sane world Biden would not be running again and things would be clearer. Do we live in that world?

    1. Mildred Montana

      As Christopher Hitchens said, Americans live in a “Bananas Republic”. (The plural is not a typo.)

  6. Rolf

    If this sounds unlikely, think how Watergate started out as a simple burglary case which eventually led all the way to the White House.

    “Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”

    1. Bsn

      Yes, it could become a Rosa Parks moment wherein a single “I’m not taking this anymore” event riles up a riled up populace.

  7. KLG

    At 9:54 am, not one word about this on the CNN landing page.
    The three stories at the top of the page are:
    Special Counsel Flags Threatening Post by Trump on Truth Social

    Simone Biles’s return to gymnastics(!)

    Gray Divorce among boomers contributing to the number of people living alone

    Nothing to see here, move along.

      1. notabanker

        Just went to my google news feed. Nothing on the main page. On the US page out of 70 featured stories, 9 of them on Trump. Not a word on RFKjr. Lol, these guys are so transparent actively suppressing this. It’s as if the twitter files never existed.

        1. Screwball

          There are many people who never heard of the Twitter files. I think we know who they are. The ones in my circle who never heard of the Twitter files and censorship, also think the owner of the yacht that blew up the Nord Stream pipeline is tied to Putin. They are most likely totally on board with any censorship, so it’s all good in their echo chamber.

          1. Valerie in Australia

            I had a back and forth with a faithful Biden supporter who scoffed at my reluctance to vote for a senile, warmonger. This woman informed me that I was reading Russian propaganda. I responded that I read widely including Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges and Seymour Hersh – all darlings of the Democratic Party until they stepped out of line and contradicted the Establishment Narrative. She informed me that they were “Fake Liberals.” Seriously! You can’t make this stuff up!

  8. DJG, Reality Czar

    This news reminds me of two aspects of RFKjr. First, there is his slippery-with-science side. I recall working with “natural resources” lawyers (his area) who were capable of putting out things along the lines of, “Endangered Species Act. Well, it isn’t perfect. I just had a greater prairie chicken for dinner.” His “something’s in the water” statements are about as helpful.

    He’s a lawyer. Which is fine. It is his area of expertise. And this news shows that he is a real lawyer as well as an astute politician. Astute politicians are much needed these days. (Can you name another?)

    I hope that the suit progresses. I likely will vote for RFKJr in the primary election (easy for me to say–I live off in the Undisclosed Region and vote absentee ballot).

    In the general election, though: no. I have voted Green the last three presidential elections. And Green it will likely be. Why the reticence? That “slippery-with-science” stuff.

    1. sharonsj

      Interesting post. I, too, cannot bring myself to vote for Biden (or Trump, of course). I will likely vote for RFK Jr or Cornell West.

    2. Phenix

      His “something’s in the water” statements are about as helpful.

      Atrazine and round up are dangerous to mammals which includes humans

      Darkhorse had a very good episode on Atrazine and there is a lot of information out on round up now. Our water is not safe to drink.

  9. Alan Roxdale

    he filing explains cogently why this is activity is state directed.

    This is the major effect of the Twitter Files. One single leak completely upended the entire understanding of western internet censorship up to that point.

    This time last year censorship was defended as a purely “private” affair. Companies were exercising their free market rights to de-platform according to their own private rules and terms of service. It was all a lie. In reality it was governments, and the US government i particular which was simply outsourcing state directed censorship to Big Tech content moderation offices.

    Such is the sheer power to be had by retaining this censorship hegemony, it has still not be curtailed or rowed back even after these revelations – and we’ve only seen them from one company. There is a mountain of evidence in emails, chats, orders, files, etc from each and every Big Tech company — social media and otherwise (the inevitable Cloudflare revelations will be eye-opening I suspect). It is now all going to drip slowly out piece by piece from lawsuits like these. How many leaks before the dam bursts? Or are we all to be drowned in it first?

  10. Rutger Yowser

    US gov is not included because the FTC routinely pursues dangerous unsubstantiated claims about snake oil. RFK II faces the hurdles of proving he is not violating YouTube’ terms of service, that his speech is not just unsubstantiated misstatement of facts for personal gain, and that the speech is, in fact, actual political ideas, such as the substantiated scientific environmental work he once championed as an attorney before personal tragedy sent him off the deep end.

    As an attorney, suspicion giving way to paranoia is an occupational hazard. RFK II sees plots everywhere now. Wrongdoing is everywhere, failures are actually venal corporate conspiracies, arbitrary classes of people coordinate through extraordinary means to advance the goals of “them”. He primed to believe anything that supports his prior assumptions. It is the opposite of skepticism, everything is connected and arrayed against him, personally. And yet, RFK II never takes responsibility for the death and destruction his own reckless behavior has caused, such as his philandering, the suicide of his second wife, and his failure to seek any treatment for his wife’s depression. All of his conspiracy theories are rationalizations and avoidance of his failed duty as a husband.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      First, I pointed out in a footnote why RFK, Jr. would be better served for a whole bunch of reasons pursuing the US separately if he got enough goodies in discovery. And he likely does not have enough facts to articulate strong case v. the US yet.

      Second, I don’t know where you got your beliefs about the FTC. Go hang out in dietary supplement land and get back to me. Or the related industry of weight loss programs.

      And the dangerous product issue is not about speech. Those products are recalled or removed from the market entirely. And it’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission does that…and for drugs, medical devices, and of course food, the FDA. The FDA does police dietary supplement companies making medical claims, but you can see they can readily finesse that.

      And RFK, Jr. is not selling a product. He is anti a whole bunch of products. So your comparison is wildly off base.

      Also I suggest you get your knee seen to.

    1. JustTheFacts

      Yes, thank you Yves. This is good news, and made my day. Rumble is good, but is inaccessible in France which makes it difficult to share videos banned from Youtube with friends.

  11. David in Friday Harbor

    I read the Complaint and find it to be well-drafted. It wisely focuses on declaratory and injunctive relief and avoids involving the federal government directly. I disagree with RFK Jr on many topics but deleting his entire Manchester speech because of a few references to his views on vaccines (which are far from the fringe) is a clear attempt to silence political speech that threatens the electoral prospects of the incumbent president.

    When one understands that the origins of the Watergate “Plumbers” was to silence Daniel Ellsberg, the actions of the administration under CISA are Nixonian in scope and intent. RFK Jr is a bit goofy but reading the complaint makes me want to cast a protest vote for him in the Democratic primary (I’ll vote for Cornell in the general). People need to pay attention to this story. It’s about how Inverted Totalitarianism works.

    1. agnieszka gill

      Also read the complaint and it asks for inductive relief to restore deleted videos and declaratory judgement that YouTube conduct amounts to state action since it adopted State’s censorship policy in part motivated by implied threat of changes to sec 230, thus State Action =violates First Amendment. With on point Exhibits. I believe this complaint is impossible to dismiss. [they’ll try]

      I think that Dems underestimate RFK, Jr. and erroneously believe that they can make him go away, just like Bernie Sanders.

  12. jake

    Bravo for the lawsuit, but crickets for Robert Kennedy, who’s notorious for worse than politically incorrect utterances. Listen to him holding forth at a dinner party on the Covid-19 “targeting” of Caucasians and Blacks (you’ll have to repair, alas, to the NY Post), in favor of Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews. And no, he wasn’t taken out of context. He makes these assertions and then, having put forward the claim, backtracks so as not to be held to account for saying what he said. “Oh, I don’t mean to say…..”

    This claptrap is the corrective to Democratic party pusillanimity and corruption?

    1. agnieszka gill

      RFK, Jr. was referencing actual study that suggested that certain cohorts [ Asians, Jews] less responsive to COVID-19, vs. “Blacks” and White populations[ I think African-American,not Africans] due to absence of certain receptors needed by COVID-19 to lock into. He never said COVID was “designed” that way, but the discussion was that, in theory, design of such ethic-bio weapons is possible, but dangerous etc… There was nothing fringe about what he said. BTW. The study he referred to was entered into Congressional Record during his testimony on censorship [Part I].

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry, this is what he said from someone who not only heard it first hand but also recorded it, Jonathan Levine of the New York Post:

        “COVID-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,” Kennedy said. “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

        “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact,” Kennedy hedged.

        In between bites of linguini and clam sauce, Kennedy, 69, warned of more dire biological weapons in the pipeline with a “50% infection fatality rate” that would make COVID-19 “look like a walk in the park.”

        “We do know that the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons and we are developing ethnic bioweapons,” he claimed. “They’re collecting Russian DNA. They’re collecting Chinese DNA so we can target people by race.”

        One bit RFK, Jr. says that is accurate is that the bioweapons labs in Ukraine that the US was funding were attempting to collect “Slavic” DNA so as to develop targeted bioweapons, but our GM dismissed that as nonsensical (or probably more accurately, a fundraising scheme that a biological illiterate agreed to.) From GM:

        I haven’t ever had to deal with anything Ukrainian in biotech.

        Nobody would describe them as leading in that field.

        The whole biolabs thing is very weird.

        Why would anyone have such labs in Ukraine? Secrecy is of paramount importance in that kind of work, which automatically means Ukraine is off the list of desirable locations for any large such operation. You do serious such work somewhere underground in Wyoming, not in Kharkiv. Ukraine is one the absolute most corrupt societies in the world, on all levels. The “oligarchs” barely scratch the surface of it — every daily transaction involves corruption there, education, healthcare, administration, whatever you can think of. Nobody can be trusted under any circumstances. On top of that. prior to 1989 probably one in ten people was working with/for the KGB in some capacity, and a lot of those links still remain.

        There is something extremely off about having dozens of US-funded labs doing bioweapon R&D there given that background. Such an operation would involve hundreds, even thousands of people, almost all of them Ukrainians. How can you ensure security of the operation if it is really sensitive?

        Even more so, you generally don’t do this work close to major population centers. Dozens of labs in densely populated Ukraine is an extreme security risk that nobody in their right mind would accept.

        The story about ethnically targeted bioweapons is largely BS. You might possibly develop something like that against Asians or Africans, but Russians are Indo-Europeans just as Westerners are, and the split dates back a mere 3,000 years. Russians are also much more mixed than the typical European (not true about Americans). So first, there has not been enough evolutionary divergence to allow for meaningful differences that can be exploited by such schemes to develop, and second, there isn’t really such a thing as a “Russian/Slavic” genome. When you live over a vast territory right on the nomadic highway between Europe and Asia, what naturally ends up happening is a ton of admixture.

        On top of that, another problem with RFK, Jr.’s claim about Covid being less dangerous to “Chinese” is bogus due to Chinese not being a race. And Asian, along with blacks, are at MORE, not less, risk of bad Covid outcomes (see: Asians smoke at higher levels that Westerners (a co-factor) and have higher propensity to diabetes at normal body weights (another co-factor).

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