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Social media platforms have come under fire for the immunity they enjoy from provisions of the US law. This protection is now being tested.
Social media platforms have largely benefited from provisions in US law. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, companies such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are immune from being sued for content posted on their platforms.
This protection is now being tested. In one case, Google is trying to win a case involving 23-year-old US citizen Nohemi Gonzalez. He was among 129 people killed in coordinated ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015. His family says YouTube broke anti-terror law through its algorithms by recommending the terrorist group’s videos to other users.
The family says that recommending a streaming service is different from the publishing activity of news publishers who use and display third-party content on their websites.
The search giant says YouTube used a sidebar tool to queue videos based on user input, including browsing history. The company says the only alleged connection between the Paris attacker and YouTube was that one attacker was an active user of the streaming service and had once appeared in an ISIS propaganda video.
A judge dismissed the case, and a federal appeals court upheld the decision.
In another case, Jordanian national Nawras Alassaf was killed in an attack in Istanbul in 2017 after an ISIS-linked gunman killed 39 people at the Reina nightclub. Alassaf’s relatives have sued three major social media platforms, Twitter, Google and Facebook, for abetting terrorism and aiding the growth of ISIS. The lower court allowed the case to continue.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court said it would hear both cases to hold social media companies financially responsible for terrorist attacks. According to a Bloomberg report, the court will hear arguments early next year and rule by the end of its term at the end of June. The court’s ruling could have a direct impact on the immunity that social media platforms now enjoy.