Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) delivered two decisions that will preserve the internet as we know it - a place where platforms can host content and opinions without fear of lawsuits. The cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh, both center around the question of whether platforms should be charged with “aiding and abetting” terrorist activity when users post content relating to terror or incitement to violence or whether Section 230 covers content moderation practices. As NTU wrote around the time of oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, this was a pivotal moment for the future of the internet.
SCOTUS delivered an unsigned opinion on Gonzalez v. Google declining to take up the petition but delivered a unanimous decision in Twitter v. Taamneh written by Justice Clarence Thomas. In his opinion, Justice Thomas stated, “...plaintiffs have failed to allege that defendants intentionally provided any substantial aid to the Reina attack or otherwise consciously participated in the Reina attack—much less that defendants so pervasively and systemically assisted ISIS as to render them liable for every ISIS attack.” This is a clear win for supporters of the current state of the internet.
If interpretation of Section 230 was modified or the provision struck down, content creators and small businesses would be in jeopardy of having their content severely curtailed by overzealous moderation by actors seeking to protect themselves from liability. Platforms and other online businesses might also be swamped by waves of litigation over the content decisions on their private services, thus hamstringing American innovation in the tech arena. Lawmakers in Congress should take heed of SCOTUS’ rightful decision to protect Section 230 and avoid taking legislative action to upend the law that has resulted in a prosperous and vibrant internet ecosystem.