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October 03, 2022

Supreme Court Accepts Cases Challenging s.230 Immunity for Tech Monopolies

This is a dangerous case. This isn't a win for Team Freedom, I don't think.

The Supreme Court said Monday it would take up a case that could fundamentally change the way Google and other tech companies are governed by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects them from lawsuits over content created by users.

In 2015, Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen studying abroad in France, was murdered by ISIS terrorists who fired into a crowed bistro in Paris. Her family filed suit against Google, arguing that YouTube, which Google owns, aided and abetted the ISIS terrorists by allowing and promoting ISIS material on the platform with algorithms that helped to recruit ISIS radicals.


Lawyers for the Gonzalez family argued in their petition to the High Court that "despite extensive media coverage, complaints, legal warnings, congressional hearings, and other attention for providing online social media platform and communications services to ISIS, prior to the Paris attacks Google continued to provide those resources and services to ISIS and its affiliates, refusing to actively identity ISIS YouTube accounts and only reviewing accounts reported by other YouTube users."

Google is arguing that its platforms are protected by the Section 230 portion of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which provides a legal shield to internet companies against lawsuits for "third-party" content posted on their platforms.

I say it's a dangerous case because this seems to me to be a case where Section 230 is actually intended to provide immunity. And I'm afraid the court might, in affirming that, over-affirm that point, and wind up granting these monopolies the power they claim they have, which is an untrammeled right to censor, whether in good faith or bad, without any liability whatsoever, and to make what are clearly publisher decisions, including about what stories to elevate and which to suppress and what headlines to themselves write -- again, with total immunity afforded to no other publisher in the world.

It's also dangerous because the argument that "the algorithms must be changed to stop speech that 'causes harm'" is the leftist censor mafia's entire argument, and that is the central legal claim of this case. If the family pressing the lawsuit prevails on its theory that the tech companies are at fault for not tweaking their "algorithms" to suppress "harmful content," then all the tech companies will say that their censorship of "anti-trans" and "anti-gay" and "anti-woman" and "anti-minority" and "anti-Muslim" and anti-etc. content is no longer just their choice -- it's required by US law as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Stochastic terrorism you guys!

A good outcome would be for the Court to affirm that s.230 immunizes platforms against harms caused by the writings of third parties -- but then adds dicta (advisories not directly related to the case or necessary to the ruling) that such immunity is available only to platforms when behaving as platforms, and only when they are acting in good faith.

Maybe add a footnote reminding that s.230 caveats its immunity on the premise that moderation will be done in "good faith."

That could then be used as precedent in a later ruling.


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posted by Ace at 01:22 PM

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