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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.