Today, TechFreedom filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule—in line with every federal appellate court to consider the question—that Section 230 protects algorithmic recommendations of third-party content.
With limited exceptions, Section 230 protects any “provider or user” of a platform—from large websites and apps to individual blogs and social media accounts—from liability for disseminating speech created by others. In addition to enabling them to host user-generated content, Section 230 enables platforms to curate, for their users, the endless stream of such content that appears on the Internet. Stripping Section 230 protection from such curation—from recommendations—would all but break services such as Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia.
TechFreedom’s brief addresses some common myths and mistruths about how Section 230 works.
“Section 230 is a boon for free speech, for the Internet, and for free speech on the Internet,” said Corbin K. Barthold, Director of Appellate Litigation at TechFreedom. “Yet critics of so-called ‘Big Tech censorship’ wrongly think of the law as a ‘Big Tech’ regulation. In doing so, they often claim that Section 230 somehow distinguishes between ‘platforms’ and ‘publishers.’ But that’s wrong. Nothing in Section 230’s text supports such a distinction. Further, inventing such a distinction would be disastrous. In order to strip Section 230 protection from ‘Big Tech,’ the critics would limit Section 230, or even the First Amendment, for everyone on the Internet.”
“Section 230 has become a scapegoat,” Barthold continued. “But putting new limits on Section 230 would not satisfy the law’s opponents. Narrowing Section 230 would result in more, not less, content moderation—or, if one insists, ‘Big Tech censorship.’ It would also create more online spaces, on the fringe, for misinformation and hate speech. And it would leave less space, on mainstream platforms, for marginalized voices. Simply put, gutting Section 230 would be a catastrophic mistake.”
The case is Gonzalez v. Google LLC.
Find this release on our website, and share it on Twitter and Mastodon. We can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Read our related work, including:
- Section 230 Heads to the Supreme Court, Reason (Nov. 4, 2022)
- Our podcast #331: Section 230’s Long Path to SCOTUS, (Oct. 31, 2022)
- Our letter on Section 230 and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, (June 27, 2022)
- What Is Section 230 and How Is It Different Than the First Amendment?, Foundation for Economic Education (May 27, 2022)
- Section 230 Continues To Not Mean Whatever You Want It To, Techdirt (July 9, 2021)
- The Wall Street Journal Misreads Section 230 and the First Amendment, Lawfare (Feb. 3, 2021)
- We Need Section 230 Now More Than Ever, Protocol (Jan. 11, 2021)
- Section 230: An Introduction for Antitrust & Consumer Protection Practitioners, Global Antitrust Institute, (Nov. 11, 2020).
- Our comments to the FCC on rulemaking to clarify provisions of Section 230, (Sep. 2, 2020)
- Our Supreme Court amicus brief in Malwarebytes Inc. v. Enigma Software Group USA, LLC, (June 12, 2020)
- Our written testimony on platform responsibility & Section 230 to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, (Apr. 26, 2018)
About TechFreedom: TechFreedom is a nonprofit, nonpartisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.