Supreme Court rules against reexamining Section 230

Supreme Court rules against reexamining Section 230

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The court said it didn’t need to address whether Section 230 should be reinterpreted for Gonzalez v. Google, a case involving YouTube recommendations.

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Supreme Court has declined to consider reinterpreting foundational internet law Section 230, saying it wasn’t necessary for deciding the terrorism-related case Gonzalez v. Google. The ruling came alongside a separate but related ruling in Twitter v. Taamneh, where the court concluded that Twitter had not aided and abetted terrorism.

In an unsigned opinion issued today, the court said the underlying complaints in Gonzalez were weak, regardless of Section 230’s applicability. The case involved the family of a woman killed in a terrorist attack suing Google, which the family claimed had violated the law by recommending terrorist content on YouTube. They sought to hold Google liable under anti-terrorism laws.

The court dismissed the complaint largely because of its ruling in Twitter v. Taamneh. Much like in Gonzalez, a family alleged that Twitter knowingly supported terrorists by failing to remove them from the platform before a deadly attack. In a ruling authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, however, the court declared that the claims were “insufficient to establish that these defendants aided and abetted ISIS” for the attack in question.

For Gonzalez v. Google, “the allegations underlying their secondary-liability claims are materially identical to those at issue in Twitter,” says the court. “Since we hold that the complaint in that case fails to state a claim for aiding and abetting … it appears to follow that the complaint here likewise fails to state such a claim.” Because of that, “we therefore decline to address the application of §230 to a complaint that appears to state little, if any, plausible claim for relief.”

The Supreme Court has indicated for some time that it wishes to reexamine Section 230, but for now, this leaves the status quo in place.

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Adi Robertson

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