Google, Facebook or Twitter are not “accomplices” in terrorism, rules the Supreme Court of the United States

This is a major victory for the giants of Silicon Valley. Google, Facebook and Twitter cannot be sued by victims of attacks who accuse them of having helped the Islamic State group by relaying its propaganda, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled Thursday in a case closely followed by the sector. of tech. The high court thus ruled in favor of the tech giants, without entering into a broader debate on the law which has protected them for a quarter of a century from lawsuits for the content they put online.

In concrete terms, it ruled on two separate cases. In the first, the parents of a young American woman killed in the November 2015 attacks in Paris had filed a complaint against Google, the parent company of YouTube, which they accused of having supported the growth of IS by suggesting its videos to some users. In the second, the relatives of a victim of an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017, believed that Facebook, Twitter and Google could be considered “accomplices” in the attack, because their efforts to remove the contents of the EI group had not been “vigorous” enough.


“The fact that bad actors take advantage of these platforms is not enough to ensure that the defendants consciously provided substantial assistance” to the jihadists, wrote Judge Clarence Thomas in the unanimous judgment of the Court. “We conclude that the plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to establish that the defendants helped IS to carry out its attack,” he wrote.

Section 230

Another reason for relief in Silicon Valley: the high court “declines” the invitation to clarify the scope of “section 230”, a law dating from 1996 which grants legal immunity to digital companies for content posted on their websites. platforms. The major companies in the sector defend tooth and nail this status of hosts – and not publishers – which, according to them, has enabled the Internet to take off.

But this provision no longer enjoys a consensus: the left criticizes social networks for hiding behind this immunity to allow racist and conspiratorial messages to flourish; the right, outraged by the banishment of Donald Trump from several platforms, accuses them of “censorship” under cover of their right to moderation. Given these divergent perspectives, legislative efforts to amend the text never came to fruition.

During the hearing in February, the Supreme Court justices also expressed doubts about the relevance of “Section 230” today, but also their reluctance to influence the fate of a law that has become fundamental to the Digital Economy.


“If we ever take your side, all of a sudden Google is no longer protected. And maybe that’s what Congress wants, but isn’t it up to Congress to decide that rather than this court? asked the progressive magistrate Elena Kagan. Changing case law could “crash the digital economy, with all sorts of consequences for workers and pension funds etc. “, for his part noted the judge John Roberts.

Their restraint satisfied the tech sector. “The Court rightly recognized the limited scope of these cases and declined to rewrite a central aspect of Internet law, protecting freedom of expression online and a thriving digital economy,” said Matt Schruers, President of the professional association CCIA. “We are delighted that the Court is not addressing and weakening Section 230 which remains an essential part of the architecture of the modern internet,” David Greene, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, commented to The Messenger. who defends freedom of expression on the Net.

By Editor

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