YouTuber must pay $40K in attorneys’ fees for daft “reverse censorship” suit

YouTuber must pay $40K in attorneys’ fees for daft “reverse censorship” suit

The finding-out phase —

Judge said the complaint from “Young Pharaoh” never had a chance of winning.

YouTuber must pay $40K in attorneys’ fees for daft “reverse censorship” suit

A YouTuber, Marshall Daniels—who has posted far-right-leaning videos under the name “Young Pharaoh” since 2015—tried to argue that YouTube violated his First Amendment rights by removing two videos discussing George Floyd and COVID-19. Years later, Daniels now owes YouTube nearly $40,000 in attorney fees for filing a frivolous lawsuit against YouTube owner Alphabet, Inc.

A United States magistrate judge in California, Virginia K. DeMarchi, ordered Daniels to pay YouTube $38,576 for asserting a First Amendment claim that “clearly lacked merit and was frivolous from the outset.” YouTube said this represents a conservative estimate and likely an underestimate of fees paid defending against the meritless claim.

In his defense, Daniels never argued that the fees Alphabet was seeking were excessive or could be burdensome. In making this rare decision in favor of the defendant Alphabet, DeMarchi had to consider Daniels’ financial circumstances. In his court filings, Daniels described himself as “a fledgling individual consumer,” but also told the court that he made more than $180,000 in the year before he filed his complaint. DeMarchi ruled that the fees would not be a burden to Daniels.

According to Daniels, who filed his complaint in 2020, he was a victim of “reverse censorship” on YouTube, which harmed him by demonetizing his account by removing videos with the titles “Fauci Silenced Dr. Judy Mikovits from Warning the American Public” and “George Floyd, Riots & Anonymous Exposed as Deep State Psyop for NOW.” Daniels alleged that the videos were removed not for violating YouTube community guidelines against harassment or cyberbullying, but “by the behest of members of Congress.”

In his repeatedly tossed-out complaint, Daniels said that Congress members Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) coerced YouTube into removing the videos by making statements suggesting that Section 230 didn’t cover platforms found to be pushing disinformation and writing letters to Google executives about their enforcement of policies banning COVID-19 misinformation.

Daniels claimed he was advancing a “novel legal theory” by suing Alphabet, but DeMarchi said that his argument failed in part because it was based on a statute that specifically precluded liability for federal actors like Pelosi and Schiff.

“None of his arguments are persuasive, as he articulated no plausible legal theory—novel or otherwise—for holding private entities liable as government actors in the circumstances presented,” DeMarchi wrote in the order granting attorney fees to Alphabet, which normally only happens under “exceptional circumstances.”

Internet law expert Eric Goldman wrote in a blog that Daniels’ arguments defending his “MAGA-ish content” were “misguided.” Goldman characterized DeMarchi’s order as “a polite way for a judge to say ‘not even close’ and ‘I can’t believe you tried this.’”

Neither Daniels’ attorneys nor Google immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.

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