Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Gonzalez v. Google. The Court found that, because the plaintiffs would not be able to establish liability even without Section 230’s protections, there was no reason to consider the case further.
Public Knowledge previously filed a brief in this case, arguing that content recommendations are shielded by Section 230, and that only Congress should update the law in a way that furthers 230’s goals of free expression and competition, while limiting the spread of online harms.
The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:
“It often gets lost in discussions of Section 230 that it is only a liability shield. Even without Section 230, plaintiffs still have to state a plausible legal claim. Here, they did not, and the Supreme Court saw no reason to go further than that.
“Congress should take note. Over the past several years, we have seen repeated legislative proposals that would remove Section 230 protections for various platform activities, such as content moderation decisions. But those activities are fully protected by the First Amendment, and removing Section 230 would at most allow plaintiffs to waste time and money in court, before their inevitable loss.
“By cutting off frivolous legal claims at an earlier stage in litigation, Section 230 does not only save both plaintiffs and defendants time and money, but also promotes free expression by allowing platforms to host user speech and to moderate content according to their individual policies. This is especially valuable for smaller platforms that cannot afford the expense of constant litigation.
“Many complaints about Section 230 and content moderation policies amount to concerns about competition and the outsize influence of major platforms. These concerns are valid, but unrelated to Section 230. The route to addressing concerns about the role of dominant technology platforms in our lives is not through weakening Section 230, which is essential for large and small platforms alike. Without Section 230, no new competitor is likely to arise to challenge the dominance of Google, Meta, or Twitter. Policymakers should focus their attention on addressing the power of these platforms through new laws to strengthen antitrust and promote competition against the largest platforms.”
You may view the amicus brief for more information on this case.
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