SCOTUS Hears Section 230 Challenge

Happy Wednesday! We warned you last week we’re going to have to keep a close eye on Florida’s upcoming legislative session. If Democratic State Sen. Lauren Book’s proposed bill prohibiting dogs from extending their “head or any other body part outside a motor vehicle window” becomes law, we’re going to have some issues.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • In his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START nuclear treaty—the last nuclear pact between Russia and the United States—and said Russia would resume nuclear tests if the U.S. does so. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, to Moscow over the United States’ “increasing involvement” in Ukraine’s war effort.
  • New York Federal Judge George Daniels ruled Tuesday U.S. federal courts cannot seize $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan central bank funds to pay debts to the families of 9/11 victims who successfully sued for damages against the Taliban. The U.S. froze some $7 billion in U.S.-held Afghan central bank assets when the terrorist organization overtook Afghanistan in 2021, but Daniels held U.S. federal courts lack jurisdiction over the bank and its property.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ordered Norfolk Southern railroad to fund and carry out cleanup efforts after one of the company’s trains derailed earlier this month, spilling toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio. If the rail transportation company fails to complete any part of the cleanup, the EPA plans to finish the job and charge the railroad three times the actual cost.
  • The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday the median existing-home sales price in the U.S. was $359,000 in January—down from a record $416,000 in June, but up 1.3 percent from January 2021—while sales of previously-owned homes declined for the 12th consecutive month, down 36.9 percent year-over-year.
  • The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday employers cannot condition severance packages on promises not to make disparaging comments about the former employer, declaring such agreements violated the National Labor Relations Act. The determination reverses two Trump-era decisions that did not find the conditional severance agreements to be unlawful.
  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its investment arm $5 million on Tuesday for creating 13 shell companies to obscure its total financial holdings from the public. 
  • Vivek Ramaswamy—biotech entrepreneur and author of Woke, Inc.announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. The Ohio native joins former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the race.
  • Republican Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska and Zach Nunn of Iowa are calling for an investigation after the Air Force released their service records without their consent during the 2022 midterm elections, Politico reported Tuesday. The Air Force informed Bacon in a letter his records had been shared with someone claiming they were doing an employment-related background investigation.
  • Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California announced Tuesday she is running for Senate in 2024 to succeed Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who confirmed last week she will retire at the end of her term. Fellow Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff have already jumped in the race, with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsing Schiff.
  • Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island announced Tuesday he will leave Congress in June—part-way through his seventh term in Congress—to head up the Rhode Island Foundation. His departure won’t change the current partisan makeup of the House, as Virginia Democrat Jennifer McClellan won a special election on Tuesday to replace Rep. Don McEachin—who died in November—as representative for the state’s 4th Congressional District.

SCOTUS Ponders the Algorithms

Relatives of Nohemi Gonzalez speak outside of the Supreme Court following oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Anyone else remember YouTube’s 2013 April Fool’s Day prank? The company declared its video sharing platform would shut down and judges would spend the next decade choosing the best video from the millions of hours of footage uploaded over the previous eight years.

We hope they follow up on that this April—they promised the winner an MP3 player!—but YouTube’s content decisions have now gone from the subject of an elaborate joke to an existential question before the Supreme Court. 

Yesterday, the Court heard oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, a case weighing whether the Google-owned video platform’s algorithmic recommendations render it legally responsible for the content it boosts to users. Legal analysts have said the case could hollow out Section 230: a foundational statute exempting tech companies from most liability for third-party content on their platforms. But during the arguments, several justices expressed their reluctance to issue a broad ruling, suggesting they may punt any major reinterpretation of “the 26 words that created the internet.”

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