How the Supreme Court Could Reshape Social Media

(Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

[UPDATE February 22, 2023: When the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google Tuesday, justices seemed hesitant to strike down broad legal protections for internet providers whose users post illegal content. But in a related case Wednesday, Twitter v. Taamneh, justices grappled with how to hold internet companies responsible for users pushing prohibited content, particularly when it comes to spreading terrorist ideology. 

During Tuesday’s arguments (see The Morning Dispatch for more details) justices on both ends of the ideological spectrum seemed concerned about what a shakeup to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act might mean for internet companies.

“Lawsuits will be nonstop,” if the court rules against the tech companies, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said. Justice Amy Coney Barrett also questioned whether average social media users would be in legal peril if they retweeted or liked content that faced legal challenges. Justice Elena Kagan suggested Congress, not the judiciary, should tackle the issue: “These are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet.”

Arguments in Wednesday’s case addressed whether internet companies are liable for aiding and abetting terrorism for hosting terrorism-related content under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Both liberal and conservative justices were more confrontational to Big Tech’s lawyers, seeming sympathetic to arguments that Twitter could have done more to boot terrorists from accessing its services. “Willful blindness … can constitute knowledge,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

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