How the Supreme Court will fix how you live online

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Now they’re at the center of a groundbreaking legal case that ultimately has the power to completely change how we live online. On February 21, the Supreme Court will hear the arguments Gonzalez v. googleYouTube’s recommendations address allegations that Google violated anti-terrorism laws by promoting ISIS content. This is the first time that the court has considered Section 230 of the law.

For decades, Section 230 has been the legal foundation on which any user-generated content — Google, Facebook, Wikimedia, AOL, even Craigslist — has built their policies and often their businesses. As I wrote last week, “It has long protected social platforms from lawsuits over user-generated content and given them the freedom to remove posts at will. (Note: Presidents Trump and Biden have said they support eliminating Section 230, which they argue gives platforms too much power with less regulation; tech companies and many free-speech advocates want to keep it.)

SCOTUS took on a very specific question: Recommendations The content is the same. Display of content, the latter being widely accepted as covered by section 230?

The stakes really couldn’t be higher. As I wrote: “[I]Whether Section 230 is repealed or broadly reinterpreted, these companies may be forced to change their approach to content management and adjust their platform architectures in the process.

Without getting into all the legal issues here, it’s important to understand that while it may seem plausible to draw a distinction between recommendation algorithms (especially those that help terrorists) and content display and hosting, it’s technically a very murky distinction. . Algorithms that sort by chronological, geographic or other criteria somehow manage the display of most content, and tech companies and some experts say it’s not easy to draw the line between that and algorithms. MagnificationThis can intentionally promote certain content and cause harmful effects (and some beneficial ones).

Experts I spoke to raised many concerns about the threat that my story last week could pose to online community moderation systems, including features like Reddit upvotes. Many shared the same concern that SCOTUS would not clearly render a decision that was both technically and socially acceptable.

“This Supreme Court doesn’t give me a lot of confidence,” Eric Goldman, a professor and dean at Santa Clara University School of Law, told me. Goldman warned that the ruling would have far-reaching unintended consequences and threaten to “kill the Internet.”

On the other hand, some experts have told me that the harm done by algorithms to individuals and society has reached an unacceptable level, and although legislating algorithms is preferable, SCOTUS should take this opportunity to change Internet law.

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