Supreme Court to hear arguments over YouTube's liability in terrorist attack

A view of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court began its new term on Monday, and started by agreeing to take up a case examining the scope of immunity granted to tech companies related to user-posted content.

The case alleges that YouTube, and its parent company Google, is partially to blame for the death of an American woman during the 2015 ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris. Nohemi Gonzalez was one of 130 people killed during the attack, and the lawsuit brought by her family alleges that YouTube's algorithms "knowingly permitted ISIS to post on YouTube hundreds of radicalizing videos inciting violence," contributing to the 23-year-old's death, reports CNBC.

Google has argued that it's shielded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that says internet companies cannot be held responsible for content posted by their users. However, lawyers for the Gonzalez family have argued that Section 230 does not apply when the company's own algorithms are recommending dangerous content. The family is hoping to prove that YouTube violated the Anti-Terrorism Act, which would supersede Section 230's protections.

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According to Bloomberg, the case will be the first time the Supreme Court will directly examine this law since it was passed in 1996. The case was one of nine that the Supreme Court agreed to take up on Monday.

The White House has made its stance on the issue clear — Section 230 is too wide-ranging. President Biden in September announced a slate of new "reform principles" related to tech companies, including the removal of Section 230 protections, along with requests to make privacy laws and internet algorithms more transparent.

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