Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Case Challenging Big Tech’s Section 230 Legal Protections

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a case that challenges legal protection for big tech companies over user-generated content that could potentially usher in a new era of moderating freedom of expression on the Internet.

The case Reynaldo Gonzalez, et al v. Google LLC would be heard asking whether tech companies make “target recommendations.”

Axios reports the case alleges YouTube aided and abetted in the death of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American woman who was killed in the 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris along with 130 others and injured more than a hundred.

The family of Gonzalez sued Google, the parent company of YouTube, arguing that the platform’s algorithms allowed and recommended terrorist-related content from ISIS to target users with “hundreds of radicalizing videos inciting violence and recruiting potential supporters.”

Google argued the claims were barred under Section 230 and has since moved to dismiss the lawsuit, Axios reports.

The Hill reports a judge dismissed the case prompting the family to appeal to the nation’s highest court.

Gonzales’ case taps into another controversial topic within the Communications Decency Act, which has a provision tucked inside the law — otherwise known as Section 230 — that says, “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

The law has seen criticism from Democrats and Republicans, who argue it grants too much power to social media companies and says it favors one party over the other concerning censoring or bolstering content.

Former Libertarian U.S. Congressman Justin Amash tweeted, “regime Republican and Democrats want to destroy Section 230 because it protects freedom of speech.”

“Dismantling Section 230 will lead to more censorship of speech that challenges their authority—giving those in power more influence and control over public discourse,” Amash said.

Tennesse Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn said in a tweet she looks forward to hearing what the court has to say on the issue.

“For too long, Big Tech has used Section 230 as a shield to avoid accountability for its decisions, including the hosting of [Child Sexual Abuse Material], violent content, and the removal of conservative content,” Blackburn said.

NetChoice, a trade group for tech corporations, advocated for the industry to NBC News, saying that tech groups need the flexibility to keep or remove content.

“Without moderation, the internet will become a content cesspool, filled with vile content of all sorts, and making it easier for things like terrorist recruitment,” said NetChoice counsel Chris Marchese.

The Washington Examiner reports that others said changing the provision could produce larger impacts on smaller organizations.

“Section 230 is the foundation that today’s internet is built on, supporting both speech online and the ability of internet platforms to take down harmful content,” Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, said according to The Washington Examiner. “Eroding that wouldn’t just impact large platforms — it would hammer smaller websites, from community newspapers to niche blogs.”

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