For decades, tech companies have been able to avoid being held criminally liable for the content that appears on their platforms via an obscure digital rights law called section 230. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could change all that and result in Facebook being on the hook for the dangerous and offensive content its algorithm promotes.
The case, which is being brought against Google for recommending YouTube videos that encouraged terrorist recruits, could have far-reaching consequences for every major social media platform. It’s this recommendation algorithm that is at the heart of the matter — a feature that has often landed Facebook in hot water too.
“Interactive computer services constantly direct such recommendations, in one form or another, at virtually every adult and child in the United States who uses social media,” the attorneys representing the petitioner wrote to the Supreme Court. “Application of section 230 to such recommendations removes all civil liability incentives for interactive computer services to eschew recommending… harmful materials, and denies redress to victims who could have shown that those recommendations had caused their injuries, or the deaths of their loved ones.”
Lawmakers have previously pushed for Facebook to be held liable for this kind of content, but this is the most serious legal challenge yet for the social media giant. No matter how the case turns out, it could result in a dramatic upheaval for how Facebook does business.
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