This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that claimed Facebook provided “material support” to terrorists by hosting their content on its platform. The case was brought by the families of five Americans who were killed in Israel by terrorist attacks.
Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, websites and providers can’t be held liable for the content that users post. However, the plaintiffs hoped that Facebook’s use of algorithms to promote content would render it liable. However, the court wasn’t convinced. And Facebook even found some unlikely allies in digital privacy groups — the same ones who are often aligned against the company.
“Holding online platforms liable for what terrorists and their supporters post online — and the violence they ultimately perpetrate — would have dire repercussions: if online platforms no longer have Section 230 immunity in this context, those forums and services will take aggressive action to screen their users, review and censor content, and potentially prohibit anonymous speech,” the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
While it’s understandable to want Facebook to pay for its moderation policies, holding them liable would indeed open Pandora’s box. Everyone wants Facebook to do a better job policing itself, but this probably wasn’t the right battle to pick with the social media giant.
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