The US Supreme Court just made two moves to protect social media companies from liability for user-generated content on their platforms.
In the Twitter v. Taamneh case, the court stated Twitter would not face repercussions for content posted by the terrorist group ISIS. The court also moved to dismiss Gonzalez v. Google, a case arguing YouTube (GOOGL) should be held responsible for algorithmically recommending ISIS recruitment videos.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who presided over the Twitter case, argued that, while social media platforms can be hubs for illegal activities, so can cell phones, email, and the internet. In both cases, plaintiffs hoped the Supreme Court would address Section 230.
The Debate Over Section 230
Section 230 was enacted nearly 30 years ago as part of the Communications Decency Act. It protects social media companies from being legally liable for the content that users post on their platforms.
Proponents of the ruling say Section 230 helps support free speech on the internet and protects smaller players from costly lawsuits. Some also argue eliminating Section 230 would undermine the basic functions of popular sites like Facebook (META), Twitter, or YouTube.
Meanwhile, some critics argue Section 230 is an unnecessary protection for one of the biggest industries in the world and demand more accountability for social media companies. While many lawmakers are demanding change, there is no clear consensus in terms of how to effectively change the ruling.
The recent decision by the Supreme Court leaves Section 230 in place, affording social media platforms continued legal protection from users’ posts. While individual users may still be banned for posting harmful or hateful content, social companies aren’t held responsible for hosting such content.
The result will mostly be noticed by no change at all in your social media feeds. The status quo across the internet will remain the same, rather than facing the paradigm shift a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs may have entailed.
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