The Supreme Court could change the way the internet is governed and is diving into how social media platforms work to stop terroristic content from being shared.
The Supreme Court could change the way the internet is governed next month. It will hear two cases that will challenge Section 230. Section 230 is a part of the Communications Decency Act. This act determines the rules for regulating online speech. This hearing is the first time the Supreme Court has dealt with a case fighting the 1996 act. But if the plaintiffs win, they could change how the internet is operated and used.
Both cases being tried in front of the supreme court involve using various social media platforms by terrorists. The court will decide if the owners of these social media platforms did enough to block terrorists from using their services to spread their message and recruit new members. The social media site, Youtube, is the main focus of this trial to see if they are protected under Section 230 for the algorithmic recommendation of content.
The first case was filed by the parents of Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Paris on November 2015. Her family believes that Youtube’s algorithms push ISIS videos into people’s scope by recommending them in the suggested videos section of their platform. It is well known that many terrorist groups, including ISIS, use YouTube to recruit members to their organization from the western world.
The second case being tried by the Supreme Court is similar to the first, where this time it is the family of Nawras Alassaf, who died in a terrorist attack by ISIS in Istanbul in 2017, suing Youtube. A ruling on both cases is expected to be concluded in June this year.
Even though Google won this Gonzalez case in the lower levels of the justice system, they fear this ruling from the supreme court may be different. If it is, it could completely change the way the Internet functions.
Google stated its concerns through a blog post this week. They said if the Supreme court decides to limit the protections given by Section 230, the internet will turn into a disorganized mess. There would be a wide-ranging suppression of free speech, with more offensive and oppressive speech being pushed to the forefront.
The internet could end up being a place with some sites removing everything anyone finds remotely offensive or objectionable. While other sites could remove all filtering in their websites altogether, so every video or photo is allowed, regardless of the content. It sounds like an unregulated nightmare. Google presses that the Supreme court should enable algorithms under the umbrella of Section 230, as without it, the internet will become useless.
Without algorithms sorting through the mass amount of content on the internet and organizing it into something that can be useful and informative, it would just be a spam-filled mess. Email companies could not filter out the junk from essential emails. Youtube would play every video uploaded in an unorganized sequence. Online retail shops would have household items next to scarves. While it seems like it is impossible to let Google loose during this hearing, the families of the people who were murdered by terrorists deserve some closure. It is hard to come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.