On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a landmark case that could see every major social media platform become liable for harmful content on their websites, changing the game forever when it comes to legal protections for such companies.
As reported by Politico, the case Gonzalez v. Google is centered around the family of a woman who was killed in the Paris terrorist attacks in November of 2015. Her family claims that the video-sharing platform YouTube, which is owned by Google, should be held liable for allowing pro-ISIS propaganda videos to be hosted on the site, which the family claims helped radicalize one of the attackers.
At the heart of the case is the controversial Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which states that internet providers are legally protected from liability regarding content posted by third-party users. A possible overturn of Section 230 would subsequently see all Big Tech companies and other internet providers re-categorized as publishers, which would make them directly liable for violent or otherwise harmful content.
If Section 230 were repealed by the Court, it would completely change the multi-trillion dollar strategy enlisted by most social media sites, which rely heavily on their own algorithms to promote certain content based on a user’s preferences and history. The platforms have tried to argue against repealing Section 230 by claiming that it would only lead to greater censorship, even though most social media companies already actively engage in censorship of political opponents or unpopular opinions.
Reining in Big Tech has become a surprisingly popular bipartisan proposal on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats both supporting the removal of such protections; both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden have voiced their support for ending Section 230, although only President Trump has named specific solutions with which to replace it. Republicans generally oppose social media platforms for their widespread systemic censorship of conservatives, while Democrats have come to oppose Big Tech due to the many protections it enjoys that allow its companies to make billions and trillions in profit, while crushing smaller businesses.SCOTUS
While Gonzalez is the first of several major lawsuits against Big Tech, it may prove to be the most significant, with a potential impact on other suits that will follow. Among them are Twitter v. Taamneh, a similar case regarding the hosting of ISIS recruitment content by the social media websites Twitter, Facebook, and Google.