Today, the Supreme Court released its rulings in two landmark cases about speech on the internet, essentially upholding the statute that protects big tech from liability.
Section 230 is the massive shield that protects companies from being sued for what users post on their websites and was at the heart of both cases.
The Supreme Court decided that Twitter was not liable for acts of terrorism after it harbored content relating to the terror group ISIS in Twitter vs. Taamneh.
The ruling in favor of Twitter was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas and was unanimous among the justices.
“Plaintiffs’ allegations,” Thomas wrote, “are insufficient to establish that these defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack.
“It might be that bad actors like ISIS are able to use platforms like defendants’ for illegal—and sometimes terrible—ends,” Thomas’ decision states, according to CNN, leaning into the argument that platforms that host content are not publishers of said content. “The same could be said of cell phones, email, or the internet generally.”
In ruling Twitter wasn’t at fault, it punted on the more prominent case, Google vs Gonzalez, which asked the court to essentially tear down Section 230 entirely. It wrote that its decision on Twitter left “little to decide.”
The plaintiffs in Google vs Gonzalez claimed YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was at fault for pushing ISIS content.
In its response, the Court specifically said it would not issue a ruling on 230.
“We therefore decline to address the application of [Section] 230 to a complaint that appears to state little, if any, plausible claim for relief.”
In hearings on both cases, the Supreme Court sparked fears it would upend the internet. In oral arguments, though, the Court seemed to indicate they wouldn’t take massive action against Section 230, leaning into the argument that it was up to Congress to resolve.
Congress has proposed a number of solutions in recent years as the debate around Section 230 flared up, but no specific bills have gained significant traction.