The US Supreme Court does not understand the Internet

Recent laws in both Texas and Florida have attempted to impose greater restrictions on how platforms can and cannot police content.

González v. Google takes a different tack, focusing on the platforms’ failure to deal with extremist content. Social media platforms have been accused of facilitating hate speech and calls for violence that have led to real-life harm, from genocide in Myanmar to killings in Ethiopia and attempted mating in Brazil.

“The material in question is clearly egregious and reprehensible,” says GS Hans, associate professor of law at Cornell University in New York. “But that’s part of what online talk is. And I fear that the end of the content will lead to some religious conclusions or implications that I don’t think really reflect the larger dynamic of the internet.”

The Internet Society’s Sullivan says the arguments for Section 230 put Big Tech companies — who, as private companies, can decide what content is allowed on their platforms — at odds with the internet as a whole.

“People have forgotten how the internet works,” says Sullivan. “Because we’ve had an economic reality that has made certain platforms very successful, we’ve started to confuse social issues around the overwhelming dominance of a single player or a small handful of players who have problems with them . the internet.”

Sullivan worries that the only companies that would be able to survive such regulations are larger platforms, calculating the hold that Big Tech platforms already have.

Decisions made in the United States on internet regulation are also likely to reverberate around the world. Prateek Waghre, director of policy at the Internet Freedom Foundation in India, says a ruling on Section 230 could set a precedent for other countries.

“It’s less about the details of the case,” says Waghre. “It’s more about (how) once you have a prescriptive regulation or precedent coming out of the United States, that’s when other countries, especially those with an authoritarian understanding, are going to use it to defend their own interventions.”

The Indian government is already taking steps to take more control over content within the country, including a government-appointed committee on content moderation and better enforcement of the country’s IT rules.

Waghre suspects that if platforms have to implement policies and tools to comply with an amended, or completely repealed, Section 230, they are likely to apply those same methods and standards to other markets as well. In many countries around the world, major platforms, especially Facebook, are so ubiquitous that they essentially act as the internet for millions of people.

“When you start doing something in one country, that is used as a precedent or a rationale for doing the same thing in another country,” he says.

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