The Supreme Court justices have a tall task ahead of them in the Google and Twitter cases: to identify an appropriate balance between protecting the internet from lawsuits, and holding tech companies accountable for the content they host and recommend. The justices must consider an enormous range of potential consequences for the internet, from the mundane to the catastrophic. In doing so, they will shape the internet’s future — and the future of the digital economy.
This week, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, a case that could have far-reaching implications for the internet. The case centers around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity for websites from being liable for content posted by their users. During the arguments, the justices discussed the potential ramifications of rolling back or narrowing the liability shield. This could lead to websites preemptively removing content to avoid being sued, or no longer moderating content at all. It could also mean that individuals engaging in activities like retweeting or liking content could be held liable. The potential consequences of a ruling against the tech industry extend to websites large and small, as well as individual internet users. The Court must now weigh the need to protect the internet from lawsuits against holding tech companies accountable for user content.