West News Wire: The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Twitter and Google could not be held accountable by the families of terrorist attack victims for posts that supported the Islamic State terrorist (IS) group. 

The court proceedings that targeted Twitter and YouTube, which are owned by Google, were considered as potential challenges to long-standing legal safeguards for tech firms that have grown increasingly targeted by lawmakers and activists on opposing sides of the political spectrum over their content standards.  

Since the platforms did not in any way “aid and abet” IS terror actions by hosting posts in support of the terrorist group, the judges declined to weigh in on the controversy, signalling that the cases are outside the purview of the legislation. 

One case was brought against Google, YouTube’s parent company, by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, the only American killed in the 2015 Paris attacks. 

Lawyers argued that the platform’s algorithm “recommended that users view inflammatory videos created by ISIS, videos which played a key role in recruiting fighters to join ISIS in its subjugation of a large area of the Middle East, and to commit terrorist acts in their home countries”. 

The family of a victim of an IS attack on an Istanbul nightclub in 2017 initiated the second case. The family claimed that Twitter’s reluctance to delete and stop endorsing IS tweets amounted to supporting terrorism. 

The Communications Decency Act of 1996, a US statute, provides that internet firms cannot be sued over third-party content uploaded by users or for site operators’ decisions to censor or filter what appears online. The breadth of this regulation was at the heart of the dispute. 

Dismantling Section 230 would expose major tech companies to legal claims relating to user-posted information and subject them to more stringent control. 

“Enough is enough Congress must step in, reform Section 230, and remove platforms’ blanket immunity from liability,” said influential Democratic Senator Dick Durbin after the ruling. 

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The justices of the Supreme Court largely sidestepped the question. They said that the allegations against YouTube and Twitter did not amount to a liable infraction and therefore the debate over section 230 was not pertinent. 

“We therefore decline to address the application of Section 230 (in a case) that appears to state little, if any, plausible claim for relief,” they said. 

The social media behemoths have already been charged with encouraging violence and participating in violent crimes, notably against marginalised communities worldwide. This lawsuit is not the first time they have been accused of doing so. 

Numerous Rohingya refugees in the UK and the US sued Facebook in 2021, alleging the social media juggernaut of enabling the propagation of hate speech against them. 

In their complaint, they sought more than $150 billion in damages. A military crackdown in Myanmar, a country with a majority of Buddhists, resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. 

Facebook has also been charged with giving a platform for the promotion of violent acts against Muslims worldwide, including the incidents in New Zealand’s Christchurch and India’s violence against Muslims, in addition to the Rohingya. 

The decision on Thursday was approved by Google. 

Halimah DeLaine Prado, general counsel for Google, stated that “numerous companies, academics, content creators, and civil society organisations who joined with us in this case will be reassured by this result.” 

The decision, according to a group that represents US tech companies, is positive. 

“The Court correctly recognised the narrow posture of these cases and declined to rewrite a key tenet of US Internet law, preserving free expression online and a thriving digital economy,” said Matt Schruers, executive director of the Computer & Communications Industry Association.


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