Supreme Court to Decide Internet’s Future in Gonzalez v. Google Case
The Supreme Court is poised to hear a potentially groundbreaking case on Tuesday that could have a massive impact on the internet as we know it. Gonzalez v. Google centers around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a federal law that shields tech companies from liability for content published by others. The case was brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, an American citizen killed in a 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. The plaintiffs allege that Google aided and abetted terrorism by allowing the group to use its platform — in this case, YouTube — “to recruit members, plan terrorist attacks, issue terrorist threats, instill fear, and intimidate civilian populations.”
At issue is whether Section 230 immunity should extend to user-created content that platforms recommend or promote — including via algorithms, which channel the majority of content viewed on YouTube and across the internet. Google has asserted that the law grants them immunity from liability for the videos surfaced by their suggestion algorithms, and that such immunity is necessary for tech companies to be able to furnish their users with useful and secure content.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday, with Justice Elena Kagan noting, “we really don’t know about these things. You know, these are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet.” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson showed the most support for the Gonzalez family. In Section 230, Blatt was informed that Congress was attempting to safeguard internet platforms that were censoring and filtering out objectionable materials.
The justices and parties involved debated whether the presentation of content is a form of speech and if it is conveyed through explicit advice or by means of an algorithm. It is argued by some that Section 230 grants tech firms too much authority over the content that is and isn't permitted on their websites. Backers, including many different web businesses, proponents of freedom of speech, and supporters of an open internet, argue that without this law, online communication would be obstructed and social media, in its current form, would not exist.
The court will hear a similar lawsuit, Twitter v Taamneh, on Wednesday. The focus of that case is not on Section 230, but instead on whether or not social media platforms can be held accountable for not taking down terrorist material fast enough. How the Supreme Court rules in Gonzalez could also relate to its conclusions about this case.
The outcome of the Supreme Court's decision in Gonzalez v.
0. “The Supreme Court appears worried it could break the internet in Gonzalez v. Google” Vox.com, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.vox.com/politics/2023/2/21/23608851/supreme-court-gonzalez-google-section-230-internet-twitter-facebook
1. “Justices will consider whether tech giants can be sued for allegedly aiding ISIS terrorism” SCOTUSblog, 19 Feb. 2023, https://www.scotusblog.com/2023/02/justices-will-consider-whether-tech-giants-can-be-sued-for-allegedly-aiding-isis-terrorism/
2. “The fate of Section 230 to be decided by the Supreme Court” Grid, 20 Feb. 2023, https://www.grid.news/story/technology/2023/02/20/the-supreme-court-prepares-to-decide-the-fate-of-section-230-the-internets-magna-carta/
3. “Google tries to ‘astroturf' the Supreme Court” POLITICO, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/02/17/google-supreme-court-engine-ties-00083536
4. “In Gonzalez v. Google, Supreme Court worries about undermining Congress” The Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/21/google-supreme-court-gonzales-isis/
5. “Supreme Court wrestles with immunity for social media companies” ABC News, 21 Feb. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/supreme-court-wrestles-immunity-social-media-companies/story?id=97364834
6. ““Not, like, the nine greatest experts on the internet”: Justices seem leery of broad ruling on Section 230” SCOTUSblog, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.scotusblog.com/2023/02/not-like-the-nine-greatest-experts-on-the-internet-justices-seem-leery-of-broad-ruling-on-section-230/
7. “Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could reform the internet” Yahoo Money, 21 Feb. 2023, https://money.yahoo.com/supreme-court-hears-arguments-in-a-case-that-could-reform-the-internet-201817197.html
8. “Justices ‘completely confused' during arguments in Section 230 case against Google that could reshape internet” Fox News, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/justices-completely-confused-arguments-section-230-case-google-could-reshape-internet
9. “Section 230: The little law that defined how the Internet works” The Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/02/21/section-230-law/
10. “How SCOTUS Justices Responded to Case on Section 230” TIME, 21 Feb. 2023, https://time.com/6257242/supreme-court-google-social-media-section-230-arguments/