Scenario 1: One or both cases are dismissed or returned.
Several judges expressed confusion about what exactly Gonzalez the case was argued, and how the case reached the Supreme Court. The plaintiff’s lawyers have been criticized for poor arguments, and there is speculation that the case may be dropped. That would mean the Supreme Court could avoid ruling on Section 230 altogether and send a clear signal that Congress needs to address the issue. There is also a possibility that Taamne the case may be returned to the lower court.
Scenario 2: Google wins Gonzalezbut the way section 230 is interpreted is changing.
When the Supreme Court issues a verdict, it also issues sentencing opinions. These opinions offer legal reasoning that changes how lower courts interpret the ruling and the law going forward. So even if Google wins, that doesn’t necessarily mean the court won’t write something that changes the way Section 230 is interpreted.
It’s possible the court could open a whole new can of worms if it does. For example, during the oral arguments, there was much discussion about “neutral algorithms” — tapping into the age-old myth that technology can be divorced from messy, complex social problems. It is unclear exactly what constitutes algorithmic neutrality, and much has been written about how AI is not inherently neutral.
Scenario 3: Taamne the ruler becomes a heavy hitter.
Oral arguments in Taamne He seemed to have more teeth. The judges appeared to be more knowledgeable about the case’s merits, and questions focused on how they should interpret the Anti-Terrorism Act. While the arguments did not mention Section 230, the results could change how platforms are held accountable for content moderation.
Arguments of Art Taamne centered on Twitter knew about how ISIS used its platform and whether the company’s actions (or inactions) led to ISIS recruitment. If the court agrees with Taamneh, platforms may be encouraged to look away from potentially illegal content so they can claim immunity, which could make the Internet less secure. Twitter, on the other hand, has said it relies on government agencies to notify the company of terrorist content that could raise other free speech questions.
Scenario 4: Article 230 is repealed.
Now that seems unlikely, and if it does happen, chaos will ensue — at least among tech executives. The upside, however, is that Congress could be pushed to pass comprehensive legislation that would hold platforms accountable for the harm they cause.
(If you want even more SCOTUS content, here are some good takeaways from Michael Kanaan, who was the first head of AI for the US Air Force, and Daniel CitronUVA law professor, among the many observers weighing in.)
What else am I reading about this week?
- The European Union has banned TikTok from its employees’ devices. This is just the latest government crackdown on China’s social media agenda. Many US states have banned the app from government employees over concerns (repeated by the FBI) of espionage and influence operations by the Chinese Communist Party, and the Biden administration in December passed a temporary ban on the app on federal devices.
- This great story from Wired by Vauhini Vara is about how big tech platforms are affecting our lives and economies, even when we try to avoid them. Vara details how Buy Nothing, a movement of people trying to limit consumption by sharing free stuff, tried to leave Facebook and launch their own app, and the mess that ensued.
- Biden went to Kyiv with a surprise trip on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I recommend reading this very interesting report by Wall Street Journal journalist Sabrina Siddiqui, which details the preparations for the secret trip.
What I learned this week
Young people seem to trust what influencers say about politics… A new study by researchers at Penn State University’s Media Effects Research Lab suggests that social media influencers can be a “powerful asset for political campaigns.” This is because the trust among their followers also extends to political messages.
The study included a survey of nearly 400 students at American universities. Political messages from influential people have been found to have a significant effect on the political views of their followers, especially when they are viewed as trustworthy, knowledgeable, or attractive.
Influencers, both national and local, are becoming a more important part of the political campaign. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, this is still a concern: other researchers have noted that people are particularly vulnerable to the risk of misinformation from influencers.