Google claims a Supreme Court defeat would transform the Internet, for the worse CNN Business
An unfavorable ruling against Google in a closely watched Supreme Court case this term over YouTube’s recommendation engine could have unintended consequences across much of the Internet, the search giant argued in a legal filing Thursday.
YouTube owner Google is fighting a high-stakes court battle over whether algorithmically generated YouTube recommendations are exempt from Big Tech’s signature liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act .
Section 230 broadly protects technology platforms from lawsuits over companies’ content moderation decisions. But a Supreme Court decision that says AI-based recommendations do not qualify for those protections could “threaten the basic functions of the Internet,” Google wrote in its brief.
“Websites like Google and Etsy rely on algorithms to sift through mountains of user-generated content and display content likely to be relevant to each user,” the company wrote. “If the plaintiffs could evade [Section 230] targeting how websites classify content or trying to hold users accountable for the articles they like or share, the Internet would become a disorganized mess and a litigious minefield.
Faced with this ruling, websites could have to choose between intentionally over-moderating their websites, cleaning them of virtually everything that could be perceived as objectionable, or doing no moderation at all to avoid the risk of liability, he said. argue Google.
Driving the case are claims that Google violated a US anti-terrorism law with its content algorithms by recommending pro-ISIS YouTube videos to users. The plaintiffs in the case are the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in a 2015 Islamic State attack in Paris.
In the filing, Google said that “YouTube abhors terrorism” and cited its “increasingly effective actions” to limit the spread of terrorist content on its platform, before insisting that the company cannot be sued for recommend the videos because of their Section 230 liability shield.
The case, Gonzalez v. Google, is seen as a landmark for content moderation and one of the first Supreme Court cases to consider Section 230 since its passage in 1996. Several Supreme Court justices have expressed interest in upholding the law, which has been widely interpreted by the courts, championed by the tech industry and harshly criticized by politicians in both parties.
The Biden administration, in a legal brief last month, argued that Section 230 protections should not extend to recommendation algorithms. President Joe Biden has long called for changes to Section 230, saying tech platforms should take more responsibility for the content that appears on their websites. As recently as Tuesday, Biden published a Wall Street Journal op-ed urging Congress to amend Section 230.
But in a blog post Thursday, Google General Counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado argued that shrinking Section 230 would increase the threat of litigation against online and small businesses, chill speech and economic activity in Internet.
“The Services could become less useful and less reliable as efforts to eliminate scams, fraud, conspiracies, malware, violence, harassment and more are stifled,” wrote DeLaine Prado.