Section 230 survives another challenge: U.S. Supreme Court rulings protect free expression online

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings today in Twitter v. Taamneh and Gonzalez v. Google, a pair of cases centered on whether social media companies could be held liable for the terrorist content hosted and recommended via algorithm on their platforms, represent a major win for digital rights. 

The Supreme Court’s decisions today preserve fundamental protections for freedom of expression online. People in the United States and abroad rely on social media platforms to exercise their rights, and it’s critical that democratic institutions do their job and protect the ability of such platforms to operate in a complex digital world. Michael De Dora, U.S. Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now

In Gonzalez, the Court was asked to consider whether Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act – which grants online platforms legal immunity for content posted by third parties and allows them to moderate content without being exposed to liability – covers recommendation systems. After deciding in Taamneh that an online platform providing a widely available service also used by terrorist entities cannot be held liable for aiding and abetting under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA), the Court declined to address the issues set forth in Gonzalez because the facts were so similar.

In the midst of ongoing attempts to change Section 230, we’re pleased to see the Supreme Court upheld protections for users and companies’ ability to moderate content on their platform. Lawmakers should examine past mistakes and the intersectional consequences before profoundly altering the state of digital free speech and human rights. Protecting marginalized people and communities must be at the forefront of their consideration. Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now

Access Now partners ARTICLE 19 and the International Justice Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law filed an amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google. You can read their brief here.