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U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to social media protections

Written by Fri 7 Oct 2022

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge relating to the Section 230 provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act that grants comprehensive legal protection to social media firms around user-generated content. Section 230 was created before the rise of social media firms and was intended to protect freedom of speech.

The lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear is an appeal from the relatives of an American student called Nohemi Gonzalez who was killed during the 2015 attacks in Paris by Islamist militants. Google, the parent firm of YouTube, was exonerated of all charges in a lower court, but the outcome will be determined by this appeal.

Google is accused of materially supporting terrorism in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act by the case, with family members seeking financial compensation from the tech giant for the death. The lawsuit itself alleges that the computer algorithms used by YouTube recommended videos by the Islamic State to some users.

High-profile politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties have criticised Section 230, saying it allows social media firms to spread misinformation and censors certain voices.

A trade group for tech firms called NetChoice, said the sector requires flexibility to decide exactly what content stays online and what content is removed. “Without moderation, the internet will become a content cesspool, filled with vile content of all sorts, and making it easier for things like terrorist recruitment,” NetChoice counsel Chris Marchese told NBC News.

Twitter denies the claims made by relatives of Nohemi Gonzalez and says that the organisation does have policies in place that stop criminals and terrorists from using their platform. The results of this ruling are expected to have a wide impact on all social media firms, who may need to change large parts of their operating model if the claim is successful.

Written by Fri 7 Oct 2022


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