On October 3, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a case, Gonzalez v. Google, concerning Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that provides wide-reaching immunities for online platforms for third-party content on their services. The case concerns an American woman killed in a terrorist attack in Paris with the victim’s family arguing that Google, through YouTube, provided material assistance to and aided and abetted ISIS by promoting ISIS recruitment videos through its algorithms in violation of the Antiterrorism Act. The District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had previously found Section 230 to protect Google against the suit. Originally adopted in 1996, Section 230 provides online platforms with broad immunities from civil liability for all third-party content they publish – including from defamation, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation claims. The law has become controversial in recent years due to its central role in facilitating various online harms. Justice Clarence Thomas stated two years ago that the Supreme Court should review whether the text of the statute aligns with the “current state of immunity.” In addition to Gonzalez, the Court also agreed to hear another case, Twitter v. Taamneh, concerning the Islamic State’s use of online platforms. Read more about the two cases here.
Members of the News/Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.