The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case examining Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields social media platforms from lawsuits over most third-party content that appears on their sites, according to Politico. The case, Gonzalez v. Google, implicates Google in a mass murder that took place seven years ago in Paris, and could have major implications for the internet moving forward.
23-year-old American Nohemi Gonzalez had been studying abroad when she was killed in a mass shooting at a Parisian café carried out by a group affiliated with the international terrorist organization ISIS, which later claimed responsibility for the deaths.
Gonzalez’s family has since sued Google, claiming that the algorithm of its subsidiary site YouTube allowed “hundreds of radicalizing videos inciting violence and recruiting potential [ISIS] supporters” to remain on the platform and even promoted the content by feeding it to “users whose characteristics indicated that they would be interested in ISIS videos.”
“[Internet companies] constantly direct such recommendations, in one form or another, at virtually every adult and child in the United States who uses social media,” Gonzalez’s attorneys argued in an April appeal. “Application of section 230 to such recommendations removes all civil liability incentives for interactive computer services to eschew recommending such harmful materials, and denies redress to victims who could have shown that those recommendations had caused their injuries, or the deaths of their loved ones.”
At least a couple of federal appeals courts found that Google and YouTube could not face lawsuits on account of their algorithms; however, the Supreme Court could rule differently on the question of whether tech companies are protected under federal law.
The court is also planning to hear a separate case in which not only Google, but Twitter and Meta-owned Facebook as well, have all been accused of failing to remove ISIS-promoting content from their platforms.