Conservative commentator: Tech giants must decide if they are publishers

Conservative commentator Dennis Prager said Monday that tech giants like Google and Facebook need to decide whether they are publishers or open forums.

“Make up your mind Google, Twitter, Facebook make up your mind,” Prager, who is a cofounder of the conservative website PragerU, said during an interview on “Rising.”

“Are you a publisher or are you an open forum,” he asked. “If you want to be an open forum, if you don’t act it, you’re deceiving the public.”

Tech critics allege the companies try to have it both ways, seeking protections for media publishers at times, while in other instances claiming they are open platforms that do not moderate users content. The debate over the role of tech platforms is heating up amid allegations from conservatives that the companies are biased against their views.

Last month, Prager testified at a hearing that was focused on allegations that Google routinely censors conservative voices. During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution chaired by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump has had a rough October Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Texas), Prager warned that "suppression of content on ideological grounds" by Google and other tech giants "threatens the future of America more than any external enemy." 

Google executive Karan Bhatia, a former Bush administration official, also testified at the July 16 hearing, where he denied that the company engages in any anti-conservative censorship.

“Let me be clear, Google is not politically biased,” Bhatia told lawmakers at the hearing. “Indeed, we go to extraordinary lengths to build our products and enforce our policies in an analytically objective and apolitical way.”

Google and other tech giants have strongly pushed back against claims from Republicans, and Present Trump that their platforms are biased against conservatives. Social media experts have said that there is little substantive evidence to back up claims of anti-conservative bias.

Prager's organization previously tried to sue Google over its censorship policies. Last year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by PragerU against Google. The lawsuit alleged that the tech giant censored its YouTube videos after the platform placed several of PragerU videos under an age-restricted list. This included videos with segments like "The most important question about abortion."

The judge ruled against PragerU's claims that the move violated free speech, arguing that Google is not subject to the First Amendment because it’s a private company and not a public institution.

—Tess Bonn