The ruling comes as developments in cutting-edge artificial intelligence products raise profound questions about whether laws can keep up with rapidly changing technology.
The case was brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old college student who was killed in a restaurant in Paris during terrorist attacks there in November 2015, which also targeted the Bataclan concert hall. The family’s lawyers argued that YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, had used algorithms to push Islamic State videos to interested viewers.
A growing group of bipartisan lawmakers, academics and activists have grown skeptical of Section 230 and say that it has shielded giant tech companies from consequences for disinformation, discrimination and violent content across their platforms.
In recent years, they have advanced a new argument: that the platforms forfeit their protections when their algorithms recommend content, target ads or introduce new connections to their users. These recommendation engines are pervasive, powering features like YouTube’s autoplay function and Instagram’s suggestions of accounts to follow. Judges have mostly rejected this reasoning.
Members of Congress have also called for changes to the law. But political realities have largely stopped those proposals from gaining traction. Republicans, angered by tech companies that remove posts by conservative politicians and publishers, want the platforms to take down less content. Democrats want the platforms to remove more, like false information about Covid-19.