YouTuber Marshall Daniels — who has been posting far-right videos under the name “Little Pharaoh” since 2015 — has 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 attorneys’ fees for filing a frivolous lawsuit against YouTube owner Alphabet, Inc.
The United States Justice of the Peace in California, Virginia K. DeMarchi ordered Daniels to pay YouTube $38,576 to assert a claim under the First Amendment that “clearly lacked merit and was frivolous from the start”. YouTube said this was a conservative estimate and likely an underestimation of the fee paid to defend against the non-merit claim.
In his defense, Daniels never argued that the fees Alphabet was seeking were excessive or could be onerous. In making this rare decision in favor of defendant Alphabet, DeMarchi had to take into account Daniels’ financial circumstances. In his court filings, Daniels described himself as an “emerging individual consumer,” but also told the court that he had earned more than $180,000 in the year prior to filing his complaint. DeMarchi ruled that the fee 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 demonizing his account by removing videos with the titles “Fauci Silenced Dr. George Floyd,” riots and Anonymous exposing themselves in Deep soul state right now.” Daniels claimed the videos were removed not for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines against harassment or cyberbullying, but “by order of members of Congress.”
In his repeatedly denied complaint, Daniels said Congressmen Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) forced YouTube to remove the videos by making statements suggesting that Section 230 does not cover platforms that were found paying disinformation and writing letters to Google executives regarding their enforcement of policies prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19.
Daniels claimed he was developing a “new legal theory” by suing Alphabet, but DeMarchi said his argument failed in part because it was based on a law that specifically precludes liability for federal actors like Pelosi and Schiff.
The order to award attorneys’ fees to Alphabet, DeMarchi wrote, usually occurs only under “extraordinary circumstances.”
Internet law expert Eric Goldman wrote in blog that Daniels’ arguments in defense of the “MAGA-ish content” were “misleading”. Goldman described DeMarchi’s order as “a polite way for the judge to say ‘Not soon’ and ‘I can’t believe you tried this'”.
Neither Daniels nor Google’s attorneys immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.