Supreme Court to hear social media cases testing Section 230

The nation’s Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a case testing the limits of Section 230, the U.S. law provision that protects social media companies from liability for what third parties post on their sites.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, which involves Google’s alleged liability for terrorist propaganda on its subsidiary YouTube, could have long-term implications for how websites treat user submissions.

The suit was brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old student who was killed in an ISIS terrorist attack in Paris in 2015. The suit alleges that Google’s YouTube “aided and abetted” ISIS, in part by allowing its algorithms to recommend video content from the terrorist group.

Section 230 was enacted in 1996 and is credited with helping lay the groundwork for the Internet as we know it today. It broadly immunizes websites and online platforms, including social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, from being held liable in civil lawsuits for what their users post.

Section 230: The Little Law That Defined How The Internet Works

The law has sparked controversy for years and has heated up significantly under the Trump administration, when the president pointed out that the law allegedly allows social media companies to “censor” conservatives online.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have called for reforms to 230, including President Biden.

“The full scope of Section 230 could be up for grabs depending on what the Supreme Court wants to do,” said Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the US Naval Academy and author of a book on Section 230, “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet.” “

The court also said Monday it would consider a separate lawsuit involving Twitter. The suit accusing Twitter was brought by the widow of a military contractor killed in a terrorist attack in Jordan. Her claim accused Twitter of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act by allowing terrorist material to be posted on its site.

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