The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Tuesday in a potentially groundbreaking case with the prospect to alter the force of a key law the tech industry says has been critical to keeping the internet an open place that fosters free speech.
That case is known as Gonzalez Google, brought by the family of an American who died in a 2015 terrorist attack in Paris.
The petitioners argued that Google and its subsidiary YouTube didn’t do enough to remove or stop promoting ISIS terrorist videos seeking to employ members, which they argue is a violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act. In the lower courts, Google won on the basis that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields it from liability for what its users post on its platform.
Now that shield is at stake as the petitioners argue it shouldn’t apply where Google diligently promotes user- generated content, similar as through its recommendation algorithms.
Many legislators on both sides of the aisle would presumably cheer a narrowing of Section 230, which has been under fire in Washington for years for reasons ranging from the belief it powers alleged internet publishing to the conviction that it protects tech companies that do little to stop hate speech and misinformation on their platforms.
But tech platforms and many free speech experts advise that changing Section 230 will have broad allegations for how the internet operates, incentivizing popular services to limit or slow down user posting to avoid being held liable for what they say. “
Without Section 230, some websites would be forced to overblock, filtering content that could invoke any implicit legal threat, and might shut down some services altogether, ” Google’s general counsel, Halimah DeLaine Prado, wrote in a January blog post briefing the company’s attitude. ”
That would leave consumers with less choice to engage on the internet and less chance to work, play, learn, shop, create, and share in the exchange of ideas online.
Justice Clarence Thomas has previously written that the court should take up a case around Section 230, suggesting it’s been applied too hugely and that internet platforms should possibly first be regulated more like utilities due to their wide use in sharing information.
The Supreme Court will also hear a separate tech case Wednesday that could have allegations for how platforms promote and remove speech on their websites. In Twitter post. Taamneh, the court will consider whether Twitter can be held responsible under theAnti-Terrorism Act for not removing terrorist content from its platform.