The United States Supreme Court is preparing to address Section 230-based tech immunity in a case that could forever alter the industry.
Section 230 generally protects websites and online platforms from legal repercussions resulting from the actions their users take. In recent years, this has become a sore spot for politicians and activists as social media platforms have increasingly been used to promote extremist behavior.
According to Business Insider, the latest challenge to Section 230 protections comes via the Gonzalez v. Google case, which aims to hold the search giant responsible for the Paris terrorist attack in 2015. The plaintiff alleges that Google recommended ISIS videos in searches, increasing the chances of people being radicalized and driving ISIS recruitment.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, setting up a showdown over the very nature of the internet. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes the following statement:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
Republicans have been among the staunchest critics of Section 230. Given the Supreme Court’s conservative makeup, there’s a good chance Section 230 will not survive in its current form
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what a revamped interpretation of Section 230 would look like. The possibilities range from requiring companies to make a good faith effort to step illegal content to completely obliterating the distinction between a “computer service” and a “publisher.”