Global Courant 2023-05-18 23:03:14
Internet platforms won a major Supreme Court victory on Thursday as Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled on a case that could have rewritten the rules of the web. The court also returned a parallel case to a lower court.
Both cases related to whether social media companies could be held liable for hosting and promoting terrorist content on their platforms.
Both cases, Twitter against Taameneh And Gonzalez to Googlechallenged Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that broadly isolates social media platforms, including major platforms such as Google’s (GOOG) (GOOGL) YouTube, Facebook (META), Instagram (META) and Twitter (TWTR), from legal liability when they display, recommend and promote content posted by their users.
- Advertisement -
“The mere creation of their media platforms by the defendants is no more guilty than the creation of email, mobile phones or the Internet in general,” the court said in its ruling. opinion in the Taameneh case. In characterizing the company’s algorithms as “agnostic” to the nature of hosted content, the judges reasoned they could not hold YouTube liable for knowingly aiding and inciting terrorism.
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Separately in the Gonzalez opinion, the court ignored questions about YouTube’s liability under Section 230 and returned the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for review in light of the Taameneh ruling. However, the court noted its position that plaintiffs’ claims that Twitter aided and incited terrorism were likely to fail.
Anna Diakun, a lawyer from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said: “The court rightly recognized in Taamneh that the alleged behavior of the platforms was too understated and passive to rise to the level of complicity.”
While the attack was appalling and tragic, Diakun said, imposing liability on the platforms under these circumstances would have had far-reaching consequences for free speech online. Still, Diakun expects the court will eventually have to answer important questions it avoided in today’s opinions.
- Advertisement -
“Questions about the scope of immunity of platforms under Section 230 are consistent and will certainly be raised in other cases soon,” she said.
The claims in the two cases arose from separate ISIS terrorist attacks and were made by victims of the attacks. Prosecutors in Gonzalez alleged that YouTube caused injuries in an attack because the platform aided and incited terrorism by knowingly sharing and promoting ISIS content.
- Advertisement -
In the Taamneh case, the plaintiffs argued that Facebook, Twitter and Google should be held liable for providing material aid to ISIS terrorists.
Sign up for the Yahoo Finance technical newsletter.
According to the plaintiffs, the companies should be stripped of Section 230 Immunity for failing to block the allegedly harmful messages.
In the Taamneh ruling, the court went on to say that the plaintiffs were not alleging that the platforms here do more than “pass information through billions of people — most of whom use the platforms for interactions that once took place over email, on the phone.” , or in public areas…”
Had the judges ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, it could have struck down portions of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives online platforms broad liability protection against content their users post.
In their arguments, plaintiffs alleged that YouTube’s act of creating thumbnails — images that appear in Internet search results as representations of available third-party content — turned the company from a passive host of third-party content into a content recommender, more akin to publishers or speakers. not covered by the Section 230 Liability Shield.
But the court ruled that the plaintiffs’ arguments did not mean YouTube was liable for the attack.
“The defendants’ mere creation of their media platforms is no more guilty than the creation of email, mobile phones, or the Internet in general,” Thomas wrote. “And the defendants’ recommendation algorithms are just part of the infrastructure through which all content on their platforms is filtered. In addition, the algorithms have been presented as agnostic to the nature of the content.”
In Gonzalez, relatives and the estate of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old US citizen killed in a December 2015 ISIS shooting at La Belle Equipe bistro in Paris, argue that Google should be held at least partially responsible for her death. That’s because, they allege, the company’s YouTube service knowingly allowed and recommended algorithmically incendiary ISIS-created videos that allegedly played a key role in recruiting the attackers.
Google presented arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in a case that could reshape the internet — and social media companies’ business models in particular — by further defining the level of risk involved in hosting third-party content.
During arguments in February, judges questioned plaintiffs’ claim that site owners were under Article 230could be held liable when their organizational algorithms recommend certain content by generating thumbnails for suggested videos — and Google’s claim that the company’s organizational choices alone cannot strip the company of Section 230 protection.
The judges focused on many of their questions about how to draw the line between publishing and hosting.
“The question is what you do with the algorithm,” Gonzalez’s attorney Eric Schnapper told the court. “It’s the recommendation practice that we think is useful.”
Google’s lawyer Lisa Blatt objected, arguing that it is impossible for content providers to make choices to organize and deliver search results to their users.
Before the Supreme Court heard the Gonzalez case, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit at Google’s request, concluding that Section 230 dismissed the claims because ISIS, not Google, had created the videos. Meanwhile, judges in different jurisdictions, faced with similar claims, applied different interpretations to the Section 230 liability shield.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
Find live stock quotes and the latest business and financial news