The U.S. Supreme Court decided to take up a case Monday that challenges the legal protections enjoyed by large computer corporations with regard to user-generated content, perhaps ushering in a new age of controlling free speech online.
Tech corporations are being questioned about whether they provide “target suggestions” in the case Reynaldo Gonzalez, et al v. Google LLC.
According to Axios, the lawsuit claims that YouTube encouraged and enabled Nohemi Gonzalez’s death. Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American, was one of 130 people killed and more than a hundred injured in the 2015 ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris.
Gonzalez’s family filed a lawsuit against Google, the owner of YouTube, claiming that the platform’s algorithms permitted and encouraged ISIS-related terrorism by presenting users with “hundreds of radicalizing videos encouraging violence and recruiting prospective sympathizers.”
Google requested that the lawsuit be dismissed after arguing that the claims were time-barred under Section 230, according to Axios.
According to The Hill, after the judge dismissed the case, the family decided to appeal to the country’s highest court.
Gonzales’ lawsuit touches on another contentious issue covered by the Communication Decency Act, which has a clause buried away that reads, in part, “No supplier or user of an interactive software service shall be regarded as the author or speaker of any material given by some other information content producer.” This section is known as Section 230.
Dems and Republicans have criticized the law, saying it gives social media corporations too much power and favors one party over the other when it comes to banning or promoting content.
“Regime Republicans and Dems want to remove Section 230 because it safeguards freedom of speech,” tweeted former libertarian U.S. Congressman Justin Amash.
The repeal of Section 230, according to Amash, “would result in more suppression of content that opposes its authority—giving those who are in power more control and influence over public debate.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, stated in a tweet that she is eager to learn the court’s ruling on the matter.
For far too long, according to Blackburn, “Big Tech has utilized Section 230 as a cloak to dodge responsibility for its actions, including providing Material from Child Sexual Abuse, violent content, and removing conservative content.”
Tech groups need the freedom to decide whether to maintain or remove information, according to NetChoice, a trade association for tech firms, which spoke up for the sector to NBC News.
According to Chris Marchese, a NetChoice attorney, “without moderation, the internet would become a content quagmire, loaded with filthy stuff of all kinds and making it more convenient for terrorist recruitment.”
Others, according to The Washington Examiner, claimed that changing the rule might have a greater impact on smaller companies.
According to Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, “Section 230 is the foundation on which today’s internet is based, protecting both online speech and the ability of internet companies to remove bad information. It would be devastating to smaller websites, from local newspapers to specialized blogs, if it were to deteriorate. It wouldn’t simply affect major platforms.”