One day after Supreme Court justices debated whether to hold Google and its YouTube subsidiary liable for how its algorithm organizes ISIS content, the Court is poised to tackle questions about the tech platform’s legal exposure to user content in the case of Twitter.
On Wednesday, the Court will hear Twitter v. Taamneh, which will determine whether social media companies can be sued for aiding and abetting a specific act of international terrorism when the platforms have hosted user content that shows general support for the group behind that violence. referring to the specific act of terrorism in question.
The plaintiffs in the case – the family of Nawras Alassaf, who was killed in an ISIS attack in Istanbul in 2017 – alleged that social media companies including Twitter knowingly aided ISIS in violation of US anti-terrorism law by allowing some of the group’s content . continue on their platforms despite policies aimed at limiting that type of content.
Twitter has said that just because ISIS happened to use the company’s platform to promote itself, it does not constitute Twitter’s “knowing” assistance to the terrorist group, and in any case the company cannot be charged. liable under anti-terrorism law because of the content in question i. the case was not specific to the attack that killed Alassaf. The Biden administration, in its task, agreed with that opinion.
The closely watched Twitter and Google cases have high stakes for the internet at large. An increase in the legal risk of apps and websites hosting or promoting content could lead to major changes for sites including Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube, to name a few.
At the heart of the legal battle is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a nearly 30-year-old federal law that courts have repeatedly said provides broad protections for technology platforms but has since come under scrutiny along with growing criticism of content Big Tech. moderation decisions.
Twitter previously argued that it was immune from the suit thanks to Section 230.
Other tech platforms such as Meta and Google argued in the Twitter case that if the Court ruled that the tech companies cannot be sued under US anti-terrorism law, at least under these circumstances, it would avoid a debate about Section 230 altogether in both case, because. the claims in question would be thrown out.
On Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments for a case known as Gonzalez v. Google, which has zeroed in on whether the tech giant can be sued over YouTube subsidiary YouTube’s algorithmic promotion of terrorist videos on its platform.
According to the plaintiffs in the case – the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the 2015 ISIS attack in Paris – YouTube’s targeting recommendations violated US anti-terrorism law by helping to radicalize viewers and promote the ISIS worldview. The allegation seeks to stifle material recommendations so that they do not receive protections under Section 230
Still, Supreme Court justices seemed generally concerned Tuesday about the potential unintended consequences of allowing websites to be sued for their automatic recommendations of user content. The legal waves that could occur if the court rules against Google seem to be a matter of great concern to the judges.
“The laws will not stand still,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh said at one point. Justice Elena Kagan expressed concern: “You are creating a world of laws.”