Opinion: The Supreme Court’s next target may be the most important law on the web

After repealing the right to abortion earlier this year, the Supreme Court’s next target may be the most important law the United States has been able to enact in relation to the Internet.

On Monday, judges agreed to hear cases against Alphabet Inc., Google Inc., GOOGL,
+ 3.13%

+ 3.28%
and Twitter Inc. TWTR,
-2.97%And the
The companies have been sued for compensation for deaths resulting from terrorist attacks. In both cases, the companies are accused of helping terrorists spread their messages by allowing them to post content on their platforms. In both cases, The tech giants, as part of their defense, have stated that the lawsuits of the victims’ families are prohibited under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which exempts companies from liability arising from the content users post on their platforms.

While the two cases are different, they have been linked together. Twitter’s lawyers argued in a petition to the Supreme Court that if the court decides to hear Gonzalez v. Google, the court should also hear Twitter’s petition for an appeal ruling against him stemming from the 2017 shooting at an Istanbul nightclub in which 39 people participated. were killed. Now, the two cases will be added to the court’s agenda, which ends in June, when verdicts are issued.

The potential results could be catastrophic. The entirety of the Internet has been based on Section 230, the only major Internet legislation that the United States has been able to enact over the past three decades. Section 230 protects online platforms from both public content and comments, and is the basis for how the Internet operates. With so much freedom of speech enabled, within some limits, Section 230 is also the basis for the most lucrative real estate business models on the Internet.

said Eric Goldman, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and co-director of the High – Institute of Technological Law. “Those who hate the Internet will take full advantage of it. I am afraid, and your readers should be afraid.”

Goldman Sachs fears the court could narrow the protections under Section 230 to companies that host unregulated content, such as Apple Inc’s AAPL. ,
+ 3.08%
iCloud or Dropbox Inc. dbx,
+ 2.65%.
It could mean that platforms like Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook META.
+ 2.16%
or that Google’s YouTube may be responsible for statements made by users on those sites. So can media companies, such as News Corp’s NWS,
+ 3.11%
MarketWatch, which will likely face legal consequences for comments made by users under this article, and all others on its website.

“The Supreme Court can say that’s the only thing that qualifies (for protection), stupid storage vaults, and any other services with user-generated content wouldn’t do that,” he said. “It will radically reshape the Internet.”

Jeff Kosseff, associate professor of cybersecurity law at the US Naval Academy and author of The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet, didn’t want to risk guessing how the judges would ultimately rule, but he did say that just looking at the case could mean a big verdict in the future.

“The court can support the status quo, which lower courts have gone for, in a very broad reading of previous cases in Section 230. Or you could also have a more limited construction,” of Section 230, he said. “It could have a huge impact on Internet law, it’s the first time they’ve interpreted Section 230.”

This may be the most influential ruling since the increasingly politicized one Earlier this year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the groundbreaking case that granted women the right to have an abortion in all 50 states. That ruling was 5-4, as all five Republican-appointed justices voted to overturn the ruling. Judge Clarence Thomas was arguing with his colleagues That they should take up a Section 230 case.

“Judge Thomas was pleading with plaintiffs to take Section 230 cases to the Supreme Court,” Goldman said.

There have been some attempts in Congress to try to reform Section 230or change it a bit so that tech companies don’t have such broad protection from litigation, but so far none of these attempts have gotten anywhere.

But just as the Supreme Court has challenged years of precedent for limiting the right to abortion, judges can once again dramatically change the status quo in the United States by ruling in these two cases.

Leave a Comment