Amicus Brief

Gonzalez v. Google (U.S. Supreme Court, 2022)

This is the first time the Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the key law that has been interpreted to provide near-total protection from liability to internet platforms for harm caused by user-generated content. The case, brought by the family of an American murdered by ISIS, alleges that YouTube knowingly hosted and recommended terrorist content, thus aiding and abetting terrorism. The lower court would not even let the case go forward, ruling that Section 230 preemptively immunized Google, which owns YouTube. ADL’s brief, which supported neither party, cites our expertise on countering hate and extremism, as well as our research on the role platform algorithms and recommendation engines play in exacerbating extremism, leading to offline harm and even mass violence. We ask the Court to make clear that the overbroad misinterpretation of Section 230 by lower courts is wrong as a matter of law. More specifically, the brief urges the Court to look at what Congress had in mind when it passed the law more than 25 years ago, before the advent of social media and their use of algorithms designed to maximize advertising revenue by keeping users online as long as possible, increasingly feeding them incendiary content and connecting them to extremist communities. The brief also asserts that the Court should not get rid of Section 230 entirely because a portion of it is what makes it possible for platforms to engage in responsible content moderation and remove those who spread hate and extremism online.