Skepticism

Why Nicole Prause Filed DMCAs to Remove My Videos

This post contains a video, which you can also view here. To support more videos like this, head to patreon.com/rebecca!

Hello, YouTube. What a few weeks I’ve had! I’ve learned something very important recently: no one reads the description. You know, the doobly doo. So with that in mind, I’m going to put everything important right here, in the video itself. BUCKLE UP.

First of all, did you know that all my videos come with a handy transcript where I link to all relevant studies and articles and Tweets and whatnot? It’s true! You can find the transcripts over on my Patreon or on Skepchick. So many ways to learn and also to support me if that’s what you would like to do! Although, liking, commenting, subscribing, and sharing my videos is another great way to support me so thank you to everyone who is doing that!

Second of all, you may have noticed some videos appearing, disappearing, and reappearing on my channel lately, sometimes reappearing with really crappy audio and video! And although I have explained some of these things, I made the mistake of explaining them in the description of the videos. And then you all comment: “The audio sucks!” “Didn’t I see this video before?” “Hey, it’s May, not November!” And at first I was annoyed but then I was like, well, do I always read the description? No. No I do not. So, I rescind my annoyance. Y’all are fine. Allow me to explain what’s been going on.

Waaay back in November of 2019, I learned that Andrew Rhodes, the founder of the anti-porn, anti-masturbation group called NoFap, was suing pro-porn neuroscientist Nicole Prause for defamation. I have often called out people using libel laws to scare their critics into silence, so I was ready to jump in to defend Prause, whose research seemed to me to be legit and in keeping with the current scientific consensus that pornography is not addictive and not inherently dangerous to individuals who watch it.

But when I looked into the evidence presented in that court case I came to the conclusion that this was not a clear-cut case of a pseudoscientist crying defamation to sue a scientist into silence. I’m no lawyer but it seemed to me that Rhodes might actually have a valid case. It’s all pretty interesting and if you want to know more details, go watch that video.

Then in April of this year I read a new study about how most people who are in favor of banning porn might use “science” to argue against it but in fact they are almost exclusively religious fundamentalists who are cherrypicking data to support their moral objections. Of course this reminded me of the mostly secular NoFap group, so I looked to see whether or not the court case had resolved since 2019. I found that not only was the case still ongoing, but there had been several more lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, and various weirdnesses since then. So I made another video where I mostly talked about the new study but also briefly mentioned the NoFap/Prause updates.

That’s when things got really interesting. A short time after that video went live, YouTube notified me that there had been some DMCA takedowns filed against those two videos. The person who filed them was Nicole Prause, who claimed I had “stolen” the thumbnail of her Twitter profile picture that I showed in the corner of the screen for about ten seconds when I first mentioned her in each of those videos.

When it comes to DMCA complaints, it’s my understanding that YouTube usually immediately sides with the complainant, so I wasn’t shocked that they said they had removed my video from 2019.

All of this happened while I had actually taken the week off because, and I’m not even joking here, I decided to elope. And god dammit I was committed not just to my new marriage but also to my vacation on the beach where I did not have my laptop OR good internet, so I just made everything private on YouTube and Skepchick and then ignored it to go surfing for a week.

Prause had also contacted Patreon to inform them that I was violating her copyright. They got in touch with me and I was like, well, the supposed violation is on my YouTube video and that’s no longer available so…we good? They agreed: we good.

After my vacation I settled in to figure this all out. My options were to either let the DMCA takedown persist and edit Prause’s picture out of my videos and re-upload them, or file a countersuit that would basically escalate this legal process. The basis of the countersuit would be “Hey, it’s fair use to use someone’s low-res profile picture for 10 seconds to illustrate who I’m talking about” but fair use is a tricky territory that isn’t well defined. Like, very expensive legal battles have been won and lost trying to work out what is and isn’t fair use. I figured “Hey, I don’t have the time, the money, or the energy for that fight. I will edit the videos and re-upload.” It’s extra work, it’s a bit stressful, but whatever. Considering how many lawsuits Prause is either filing, defending, or threatening, I kind of should have seen that coming.

But YouTube wouldn’t let me download my original video from 2019 because it had the DMCA strike, and apparently I backed up everything except November of 2019 to my external hard drives because, well, I’m me, that’s the sort of stupid thing I do. So I found a low quality version of the video with crappy audio and I uploaded that, removing Prause’s profile pic and also preemptively censoring screenshots of her Tweets, too, because I just didn’t want to have to deal with this again. Remember that, it’s important.

So THAT is the video that went up earlier this week, where you all complained about the bad quality and the weirdness of me saying it’s November when it’s clearly May.

Once that was done I went to start editing the most recent update video, which was way easier because I had the raw file. But before I finished, I got this email from YouTube. Even though I didn’t challenge Prause’s DMCA, YouTube actually noticed that it was fishy and that my use of her profile pic was actually most likely covered under fair use. So that video was available for me to once again make public, which is super cool! But before I made it public again, I removed the section where I gave the update on Prause, because I decided I wanted to make this video where I explain everything. And honestly now that video is better for it because there’s no distraction from the new science about Christian fundamentalists and porn bans.

I then emailed YouTube and said “Hey, if the ten seconds of a profile pic were fair use in this video, then can you also reinstate the previous video that did the same thing?” I haven’t heard back yet and honestly it can be hard to get through to a human at Google so I don’t know if anyone will see it, but if that video gets reinstated I can go ahead and delete the bad quality one.

Right after I made the 2021 video public again, I got another automated email from YouTube announcing that an ***individual*** has requested removal of the re-uploaded 2019 video due to “privacy” concerns, with timestamps noting the seconds where I am speaking about the very public lawsuit filed against Nicole Prause with a censored box in the corner. YouTube was giving me 48 hours notice to make changes before a human takes a look and decides if it is, in fact, a privacy concern.

Meanwhile, I noticed some weird thing happening on Twitter. There were a bunch of replies to my Tweets that I couldn’t view, and it turns out that Nicole Prause blocked me on Twitter but somehow was able to keep replying to my Tweets. I…I did not even know that was possible. It’s not possible anymore because I went ahead and blocked her, too, but I took a look at her profile (thanks private browsers!) and found that she was accusing me of defamation. This helped explain something I noticed in her messages to YouTube trying to get my video removed, where she wrote, “The information presented is false, defamatory, and the current subject of a lawsuit against Rebecca Watson in California. She cannot be presenting “news” about herself.” I had no idea there was a lawsuit against me in California or elsewhere, but maybe it has something to do with this?

Prause claimed that it was “false and defamatory” for me to say that she was suspended from Twitter, but then she quotes herself thanking Twitter for reinstating her account. After she was suspended. So.

She also says I defamed her when I said she had lost defamation lawsuits. Let me correct the record and be as clear as possible: according to Gary Wilson, Prause sued him for defamation in an Oregon small claims court, which ruled against her and ordered her to pay court fees. She also lost one anti-SLAPP suit (I mistakenly thought there had been several anti-SLAPPs but it was just the one — as Prause says in her Tweet, I didn’t fully read all the documents — my bad!) in response to her trying to get a restraining order against Wilson. When neurosurgeon Don Hilton sued Prause for defamation, Prause agreed to settle out of court. NoFap’s Alexander Rhode’s defamation case against her is still ongoing. And psychotherapist Staci Sprout says that after she was asked to give a sworn statement about Prause’s harassment of her for one of those defamation lawsuits, Prause demanded Sprout pay her $10,000 and then tried to sue her in small claims court in California, where the case was dismissed for being in the wrong venue.

Back on Twitter, Prause claims that her critics are my “anti-porn heroes,” which is kind of hilarious considering that in each of my two videos on this topic I say pretty clearly that I don’t think porn is bad for people. She claims that I said I was in litigation with her (I never said that, that would be an absolutely insane thing to say) and that I said she was in litigation with ScramNews (I never said that either — I correctly said that ScramNews was sued for defamation for repeating Prause’s comments, they lost that case and had to apologize, pay fees, and then they went out of business). Then she says I “link to groups that say I was not sexually assaulted,” which….yeah. I never said anything about whether or not she was sexually assaulted. Quite the non sequitur.

Finally, she thanked YouTube for removing the previous video “that posted stolen photographs of me falsely claiming I had lost lawsuits, was involved in pornography, etc” and holy shit, what? I’m actually blown away by how casually she throws out this comment about her being involved in pornography. I NEVER said she was in porn, and why would it even matter if she was in porn? Like, you do you lady! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with or shameful about being in pornography.

So, Prause tweeted several things about me that are untrue. Does that mean I’m about to get in on all these defamation lawsuits? No. Here’s why: as I (a non-lawyer) understand it, defamation of a public figure such as myself requires that a statement be false, be malicious, and cause damage. Her statements are obviously false but did she know they were false? Maybe, maybe not! Maybe she has confused me with the many other people she is fighting with in the public sphere. Maybe one of those people said she does porn. I don’t know. 

And was it damaging to me? Well, she did tag Patreon, my primary income provider, in one of the false Tweets (she also contacted them to try to have my previous video removed). And yes, her DMCA did remove this video for a period of time which resulted in some lost ad revenue, and it took me a few hours to edit, re-record, and re-upload these videos, which sucks. But for real, I seriously hate defamation lawsuits and if I’m going to launch my own you’d better believe it’s gotta be worth it. And as of right now, I still have my Patreon and YouTube accounts, so I’m willing to take the loss.

I’m staunchly opposed to people using the court system to silence critics. I would much rather trust in the common sense of rational people to see how Prause is behaving and understand that she is not to be taken seriously. It is truly jaw-dropping that she would go after me this hard when I AGREE WITH HER that the science shows that pornography isn’t damaging. And because I’m me, I can’t just delete everything and move on when I’m threatened. I prefer for everything to be out in the open. So I made this video and am fighting to make sure the other videos remain public.

So that’s the story as of right now. I’ve tried to record this several times but each time I get some new notification that Prause is trying to shut me up, which is mostly annoying because this isn’t the Nicole Prause channel and I’d prefer to make this my last video on the subject.

If you’d like more frequent updates on this, plus photos of my dog, stupid jokes, and sciencey stuff, you can follow me on Twitter @RebeccaWatson. Thank you so much to everyone on Patreon and here on YouTube who are liking my videos, subscribing, and sharing with friends. I really appreciate it.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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2 Comments

  1. So it looks like she’s angry that you “continue to republish” (read: linked to, like, how the internet works) a site that said she was in porn? I can’t tell, she seems like the type of person who likes to be technically correct, because it’s the best kind of correct. Colloquially, people know what you mean when you say someone lost several court cases. But in her case, I guess technically she only lost one defamation suit, and then she lost one anti-SLAPP suit, and the rest were either settled or thrown out. So I guess that’s better somehow? What a buffoon.

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