Content Creators Sent Packing in YouTube Discrimination Case

An opinion filed by Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California late last week dismissed the claims of YouTube content creators who said that the platform racially discriminated against them. The decision is the second granting YouTube and parent Google LLC’s bids to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit centers on allegations that YouTube restricted African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican-descents’ YouTube videos without basis. The litigants said that the platform demonetized their videos by blocking advertisements from running on them and removing them from search results, among other things.

Following the first dismissal opinion authored by Judge Lucy H. Koh, the plaintiffs proceeded on narrowed grounds, which were cut back even further in last week’s opinion. “As mentioned previously, a significant problem with the complaint is that it is far too long, far too repetitive, and far too difficult to comprehend,” Judge Chhabria’s ruling chided. 

The court once again dismissed the federal claims, this time without leave to amend, for failure to state a claim for relief. “The new allegations included in the third amended complaint—additional details about YouTube’s September 2017 meeting with content creators, references to the book Algorithms of Oppression, and a chart that purports to compare 33 of the plaintiffs’ restricted videos to the unrestricted videos of white non-Hispanic creators—do not change that conclusion,” the court said of the plaintiffs’ Title VII of the Civil Rights Act cause of action. Alongside it, the plaintiffs’ California Unruh Act claim failed because it was not supported by allegations evincing intentional discrimination.

The court granted leave to amend several state claims, including the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim. However, Judge Chhabria said that the complaint was “frustratingly vague” on key points, like which of YouTube’s contracts apply to the dispute. Though the ruling permitted leave to amend the plaintiffs’ California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) claim, the opinion said both the complaint and the opposition brief were unclear as to which theory of liability the plaintiffs sought to rely on.

“If the plaintiffs choose to file an amended complaint, it must be no longer than 70 pages, and it must reflect a more serious effort to clearly articulate non-frivolous claims,” the court wrote, warning that if it does not comply with the restrictions, it will be dismissed for that reason alone.

The content creators are represented by Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey and Henkel & Cohen. Google and YouTube are represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.