(HorizonPost.com) – The Supreme Court has found Google is not liable for terrorist content posted on its platform. The Justices declined to rule on the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects online platforms from liability. The Court said that Congress must address gaps in the legislation and that its ruling on Google sufficiently expresses its view.
A Jordanian-American family filed a lawsuit against Twitter, claiming it had aided and abetted the murder of Nawras Alassaf, who died in an ISIS attack in 2017. The family alleged that Twitter was culpable because it did not prevent ISIS from using the platform to recruit and radicalize.
In a separate case, also heard by the Supreme Court, a family sued Google for similar reasons. ISIS murdered a relative in Paris, and the plaintiffs claimed that videos on YouTube, which Google owns, assisted the recruitment of terrorists.
The cases were decided mainly on whether the platforms could be shown to have provided “substantial assistance” to a specific act of violence, and the Justices ruled that they could not. Justice Clarence Thomas said, “The fact that some bad actors took advantage of these platforms is insufficient to state a claim that defendants knowingly gave substantial assistance and thereby aided and abetted those wrongdoers’ acts.”
Free speech groups have praised the ruling and expressed relief that the Court did not address or water down Section 230. The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief to the case, stating that holding the social media giants liable would create a risk-averse environment and make platforms overly sensitive and prone to strict moderation. Such an impact would severely curtail free speech.
NetChoice, an industry group that represents online companies including Google, Twitter, and Meta (the owner of Facebook), said tech companies with platforms as large as Twitter cannot monitor all content and, if held liable for that content, would not be able to operate as they do.
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