RFK Jr sues ‘state actors’ YouTube and Google for alleged censorship of his anti-vaxx interviews

Democratic presidential candidate claims the tech firms are working at the direction of Joe Biden

Bevan Hurley
Friday 04 August 2023 11:21 BST
Robert F Kennedy Jr claims he has never been anti-vaccine

Robert F Kennedy has claimed his anti-vaxx interviews are being censored by YouTube and Google in a new lawsuit which accuses the big tech behemoths of being “state actors”.

The presidential candidate filed a 27-page complaint in California on Wednesday alleging the sites had caved to pressure to “silence” him by the federal government and his Democratic primary rival President Joe Biden.

Mr Kennedy’s lawyers alleged in the court filing that his misinformation about Covid vaccines was being censored through “overt and covert” means.

“Under these circumstances, YouTube is a state actor and it violated Mr Kennedy’s First Amendment rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination.”

Mr Kennedy’s anti-vaccine crusade and penchant for spreading fact-free conspiracy theories have seen him run afoul of the content moderation policies of several digital sites.

Last month, a video featuring his discussion with podcast host Jordan Peterson was removed by YouTube for breaching its vaccine misinformation policy.

The lawsuit cites several instances of Mr Kennedy’s speeches and interviews being removed, including an interview with Joe Rogan and a speech he gave to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in March.

He accuses the platforms of silencing “people it does not want Americans to hear.” 

“Unlike other tech companies — notably Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Facebook parent Meta) and Twitter (now owned by Elon Musk) — YouTube has not treated Mr Kennedy differently now that he is a political candidate,” the suit states.

Robert F Kennedy, Jr., is sworn in before testifying at a House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government in July
Robert F Kennedy, Jr., is sworn in before testifying at a House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government in July (Associated Press)

In an appearance last month before the Republican Party’s Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, Mr Kennedy railed furiously against what was described as a cabal of “big government, big tech and big media”.

The 69-year-old even claimed during the nationally televised hearing that he was somehow being censored.

The First Amendment applies to speech by federal, state, and local government actors and lawmakers, but not to private companies such as Alphabet, the parent company of YouTube and Google.

In a statement to The Independent, Google spokesperson José Castaneda said: “YouTube applies its Community Guidelines independently, transparently, and consistently, regardless of political viewpoint.

“These claims are meritless and we look forward to refuting them.” -

The Independent has also contacted YouTube for comment.

Mr Kennedy’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In March, Mr Kennedy filed a class action lawsuit against Mr Biden and the federal government of attempting to induce Facebook, Twitter, and Google to “censor constitutionally protected speech” on their platforms.

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