The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the tech giants in a case involving YouTube and Twitter recommendation systems being held responsible for promoting terrorism.
We are talking about the case “Gonzalez vs. Google”. The plaintiffs demanded a review of the interpretation of Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act, which protects online platforms from liability for user content.
In 2015, a relative of the victims died during attacks ISIS in Paris. The plaintiffs argued that YouTube was partly to blame for the dissemination of recruiting materials for terrorist groups.
Supreme Court decidedthat the main complaints in the Gonzalez case were weak, regardless of the applicability of Section 230.
At the same time, the court rejected a similar lawsuit “Twitter v Taamne”. In this case, the family of the victim who died during attacks ISIS militants in Istanbul in 2017, accused the social network of knowingly supporting terrorists.
Judge Clarence Thomas said the claims are “not sufficient to establish that the defendants aided and abetted ISIS” in the attack in question. According to him, Twitter’s inability to control extremist content does not mean that the company is involved in illegal activities.
“If liability for aiding and abetting were taken too far, ordinary merchants could be liable for any misuse of their goods and services,” Thomas wrote.
The judge compared social media to other older forms of communication:
“The same can be said about mobile phones, e-mail or the Internet in general. […] We do not think that providers are accomplices, for example, of illegal drug deals concluded through cell phones?
The court also disagreed with the assertion that recommendation systems actively assist in the dissemination of illegal content.
“The fact that the algorithms matched some ISIS content with some users does not turn the accused’s passive assistance into active incitement,” the ruling says.
Civil liberties activists welcomed the verdict.
“We are pleased that the court did not weaken Section 230, which remains an integral part of the architecture of the modern Internet,” declared at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Google Public Policy team also backed the decision.
Countless companies, scholars, creators and civil society groups who joined with us in this case will be reassured by this result. We’ll continue to safeguard free expression online, combat harmful content, and support businesses and creators who benefit from the internet. https://t.co/w7uBX94ocQ
— Google Public Policy (@googlepubpolicy) May 18, 2023
Recall that in January a group of companies, users, scientists and human rights experts defended YouTube and Section 230.
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