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The Supreme Court will consider the extent to which tech companies can be held legally responsible for content posted on its platforms, as the court announced on Monday it will consider a case that concerns whether Google was wrong to recommend videos YouTube that helped encourage ISIS recruitment, and by extension a separate case brought by Twitter over similar content.
The court agreed to consider Gonzalez v. Google (which was brought by a father of a woman killed in the 2015 Paris terrorist attack alleging that Google “recommends[ing] ISIS’s videos to users” were “essential to ISIS’s growth and activity.”
Social media companies have so far been shielded from legal liability for content users post to their platform under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that no IT service provider “shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information” posted by another content provider, i.e. its users.
The case Asks the Supreme Court whether Section 230 protections should include targeted video recommendations on social media platforms, or whether they should be legally protected only when it comes to content posted on the platforms .
Reynaldo Gonzalez, who brought the case, argued that the platforms’ legal liability should be limited to “traditional editorial functions” such as “posting, removing, postponing or editing content”, not recommendations, while Google argues that its recommendations are protected by section 230.
The district and appellate courts both sided with Google in the previous case, though other appeals courts have ruled in favor of the tech companies held liable for the recommendations.
The Supreme Court also announced that it would take over Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, a related case that was brought against Twitter, Facebook and YouTube seeking to hold them accountable for extremist content posted on their platforms in light of a terrorist attack in Turkey in 2017, after Twitter Asked the Supreme Court will take up the case. case if it also takes up Gonzalez v. Google.
“Interactive computer services consistently direct such recommendations, in one form or another, to virtually every adult and child in the United States who uses social media,” attorneys for petitioner Reynaldo Gonzelez wrote in their motion to the Court. supreme in this matter. “Applying Section 230 to such recommendations removes all civil liability incentives for interactive computing services to avoid recommending[…]harmful materials and denies compensation to victims who could demonstrate that these recommendations caused their injuries or the death of their loved ones.
If the court decides that YouTube’s recommendations cannot be shielded from legal liability, “Section 230 would be a dead letter,” Google argued in a court filing to the Supreme Court. “Our Court should not lightly adopt a reading of Section 230 that threatens the fundamental organizational decisions of the modern Internet. The company has yet to respond to a request for comment on the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday.
The Supreme Court decided to take up the case on Monday after Justice Clarence Thomas previously suggested the court should rule on Section 230 in 2020 in a case that when a law more “appropriate” arises, judges “should consider whether the text of this increasingly important law aligns with the current state of immunity enjoyed by internet platforms.”
This story is breaking and will be updated.