In a defense brief filed Thursday in the U.S. Supreme Court, Google warned that changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which protects internet-based businesses from lawsuits for content created by their users — “would disrupt the internet”.
The brief forms part of Google’s defense in a lawsuit brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old US citizen who was killed by Islamic State in Paris in November 2015. Oral arguments in the case are to be heard February 21. .
The family argues that Google-owned YouTube violated the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) when its algorithms recommended content related to Islamic State to users. They argue that while the company is not responsible for ISIS content, algorithmic recommendations should not be protected by Section 230.
The Gonzalez family argues that the algorithms that Google and YouTube use to target certain content to users are the creations of the companies themselves, not of users or other third parties, and as such are essentially editorial functions whose they are responsible – and therefore algorithms are not protected by Article 230.
YouTube uses algorithms to sort and list related videos that viewers might be interested in, so they don’t have to contend with billions of unsorted videos. As the world is set to share 120 zettabytes of data online in 2023, websites are using algorithms to sift through billions of pieces of content and publish information in the most useful form for particular users. The websites also allow users to curate content for others by liking or sharing photos, videos, and articles.
Lawmakers Attack Section 230 of the Internet Liability Shield
Section 230, however, has been the subject of criticism from both legislators on all sides. Republicans have criticized Section 230 protections, saying they allow tech platforms to make allegedly biased decisions about which posts to remove, while Democrats want platforms to take greater responsibility and are expanding their content moderation to make their services safer for users.
President Joe Biden has urged changes to Section 230, with his administration supporting the position that Section 230 protections should not extend to recommendation algorithms.
Google, in its brief, said that YouTube abhors terrorism and has taken increasingly effective measures to remove terrorist and other potentially harmful content, and that weakening Section 230 would make it more difficult to find and blocking terrorist content.
The company also argues that if Section 230 and the protections it provides are taken down, some companies may comply, while others may seek to avoid liability by refusing to do any kind of screening – basically closing your eyes and leaving everything in place, however reprehensible. .
“You would be forced to choose between overly organized mainstream sites or fringe sites inundated with objectionable content,” according to the brief, adding that “the legal risk of recommending or organizing content would reduce useful services such as displaying the best jobs, listing the most relevant products or showing the most useful videos of recipes, songs or sources of news, entertainment and information. »
Google also said that removing Section 230 would lead to a litigation minefield. “A decision that violates Section 230 would have significant unintended and adverse consequences,” according to the brief.
A similar case, Twitter v. Taamneh, is scheduled for oral argument on February 2. In this case, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allegedly aided and abetted another ISIS attack.
Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.
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