Prof. Michael Carroll Interviewed by The Conversation About the Supreme Court's Google and Twitter Cases
March 16, 2023
PIJIP Faculty Director Michael Carroll was recently interviewed by The Conversation about two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases - Gonzalez vs. Google and Twitter vs. Taamneh. Both of the cases involve terrorist attacks. The plaintiffs argue that algorithms used by YouTube (owned by Google) and Twitter amplified the Islamic State's propaganda, and that the social media companies bear some responsibility for the attacks.
Gonzales v. Google relates to Section 230 of the Communcations Act, which protects interactive computer services from liability when third parties use their site. The Twitter vs. Taamneh involves social media's obligations under the Anti-Terrorism Act to be agressive in its takedowns of terrorist organization videos.
Michael Carroll told The Conversation:
Although I don’t subscribe to some of the hyperbole – no matter what the justices rule, they are not going to “break the internet” – the stakes are actually quite high for social media companies. And this is largely due to scale.
This could be a huge issue for social media providers because so many people use their products. At the moment, Section 230 provides social media firms broad, but not blanket, immunity against prosecution for the actions of individuals using their services. It doesn’t protect platforms if they knowingly promote and circulate criminal content such as child pornography, but it does protect them from a lot of other lawsuits.
In fact, Congress specifically designed Section 230 in this way, knowing that the defamation laws that cover traditional media such as newspapers were unworkable on social media. Instead, under Section 230 social media platforms are treated more like phone services – and phone companies are not held accountable for what is said over their service.
If the justices interpret Section 230 in a similar fashion, then not much will change. But if they side with the plaintiff, that could open up social media providers to lawsuits regarding content posted by individuals and groups.
Click here for the full interview on The Conversation.
Recent PIJIP Events On These Cases
PIJIP recently held two events about these Supreme Court cases. These events were part of PIJIP's long-running "IP at the Supreme Court" series, in which we invite counsel of record and counsel for selected amici to offer post-argument reflections in intellectual property (and related) cases heard by the Supreme Court. Our events are held on the afternoon of oral argument before the Court.
GONZALEZ V. GOOGLE LLC
Issue: Whether Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act immunizes interactive computer services when they make targeted recommendations of information provided by another information content provider, or only limits the liability of interactive computer services when they engage in traditional editorial functions (such as deciding whether to display or withdraw) with regard to such information.
TWITTER, INC. V. TAAMNEH
Issues: (1) Whether a defendant that provides generic, widely available services to all its numerous users and “regularly” works to detect and prevent terrorists from using those services “knowingly” provided substantial assistance under 18 U.S.C. § 2333 merely because it allegedly could have taken more “meaningful” or “aggressive” action to prevent such use; and (2) whether a defendant whose generic, widely available services were not used in connection with the specific “act of international terrorism” that injured the plaintiff may be liable for aiding and abetting under Section 2333.