The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on two challenges to a law protecting companies from lawsuits over content posted by their users could have a major effect on the Internet as a whole, Axios reports.
The court announced on Monday that it would rule in the cases of Gonzalez v. Google, which concerns YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, and Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, which concerns whether platforms can violate anti-terrorism laws by failing to remove terrorist content.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act grants Internet providers wide-ranging protections against lawsuits, as established in the 1997 case Zeran v. America Online, Inc. Samir Jain, director of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology and one of the litigators in that case, told Axios that "if the court were to substantially narrow Section 230 in a way that made online services potentially liable for third-party content, then that might result in significantly less ability for people to speak freely online.”
He continued, "Section 230 really has been a critical piece of the flowing of free speech on the Internet, particularly through social media and other online services.”
Daphne Keller of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center added that “the court could easily take this, and then rule in ways that affect big questions not actually raised by the case. It could mean news feeds get purged of anything that creates fear of legal risk, so they become super sanitized."
However, Matt Wood, the president and general counsel of Free Press, said that “Allowing suits to go forward for the behavior challenged in this case wouldn’t automatically make the platforms liable. It would merely allow plaintiffs to proceed on the difficult path of proving in court that a platform knowingly provided substantial assistance to a terrorist organization."
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