Gonzalez v. Google
Urging the Supreme Court, in interpreting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to consider the role of social media companies in preserving the Internet as a marketplace of ideas and protecting the targets of hate-motivated gun violence.
Case Information: Gonzalez v. Google, No. 21-1333 (Supreme Court of the United States, brief field December 6, 2022)
At Issue: Circuit courts have reached conflicting outcomes about the scope of liability for interactive computer services such as social media platforms under the Communications Decency Act. Gonzalez v. Google is the first of these cases granted certiorari by the Supreme Court. The petition argues that by hosting and algorithmically recommending videos ISIS used to enlist support and recruits from areas outside its control, Google’s YouTube helped ISIS carry out an attack that killed more than 100 people. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s conclusion that the Act protected Google from liability because the platform did not produce the videos and only recommended them.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether section 230(c)(1) of the Act provides immunity to interactive computer services when they make targeted recommendations of information provided by another information content provider, or only when they engage in traditional editorial functions with regard to such information.
Our Brief: We urge the Court, in interpreting the scope of immunity under CDA Section 230, to consider the role that social media has played in fueling hate-based gun violence in the United States.
Our brief illustrates how an epidemic of online hate speech and hate-motivated gun violence presents a real-world threat to our democracy and to the lives of Americans. We examine the role of social media, online hate, and glorification of violence in hate-motivated mass shootings, as exemplified by recent attacks in Santa Barbara, California; Charleston, South Carolina; and Buffalo, New York. In some instances, the shooter’s direct online threats to targeted groups remained visible on social media even after the attack. In others, the shooter actively participated in extremist online groups that have thrived online for years, enabled by their website hosts. After one shooter livestreamed an attack, mainstream social media sites promoted the video along with paid advertisements. In each case, the shooter’s online trail continues to be widely shared and glorified across social media, further perpetuating the cycle of hate and mass murder.
In addition to mass shootings, we discuss how the insurrectionist movement that led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol used social media to organize and promote their activities, while social media companies largely failed to address the growing threats of violence dominating discussions on their platforms. While social media companies have taken steps to address the growing threat of online hate speech, they have not done enough. Social media companies have an important role in preserving the Internet as a marketplace of ideas and protecting the targets of hate-motivated gun violence. We urge the Court to interpret the Communications Decency Act with this role in mind.
Read the full text of our amicus brief here.
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