The Supreme Court, Google, and Internet Law

Posted by Gregory Deyesu.

This article is a transcription of a podcast by the WSJ giving an update on the lawsuit that Google LLC is facing. This case has made its way to the Supreme Court and Google now has the responsibility of defending Section 230. According to John McKinnon, a Tech Policy Reporter of the WSJ, Section 230 “is regarded as a pillar of the online economy” (McKinnon). Section 230 gives internet platforms immunity for all kinds of lawsuits over the content hosted on their platforms. This includes any harm caused by posts, images, and videos. This court case is important because of the implications it could have to other Internet companies. The main question comes down to whether tech companies still need this kind of protection in this day and age.

Section 230 was passed back in 1996, “the dawn of the internet age” (McKinnon). The original lawsuit was brought against google by the family of a student who was killed in the 2015 Terror attacks in Paris. The lawsuit alleges that Youtube, a subsidiary of Google LLC, promoted videos posted by ISIS. Google LLC has continued to state that they are protected by Section 230 and lower courts have agreed. Yet the issue remains that Google promoted this content, not that ISIS posted it. The ‘recommendation’ algorithm is one of the most valuable pieces of software for so many internet companies. This is one of the reasons why this case is so important and why many others have sided with the plaintiffs or with the defendants.

The Supreme Court has not set a date for when they will be ruling on this issue, but all evidence points towards a decision coming out by the time their term ends. Putting the Supreme Court’s decision aside, I believe that whatever the decision is, it will be setting a precedent for other internet companies, while keeping large amount of censorship on the Internet. The Internet is known for it’s free speech and access to information, but making these companies liable for any and all harm that may be caused from posts on their website, these companies are going to be a lot more stringent on who and what they allow on their platform. Ultimately, I believe that recommendation algorithms need to be corrected so that hate speech is not promoted, while at the same time, gross censorship would be unfair.

Gregory is a student at Seton Hall University.

Article Name: Supreme Court to Hear Internet Shield Law Case