It seems the Supreme Court won’t be giving its two cents on the liability shield that internet companies currently enjoy.
Not long ago, the high court agreed to weigh the question of how far the protections that are provided to internet companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act extended to tech companies and the content posted on them.
Last Thursday, though, the Supreme Court resolved cases that were before them against both Google and Twitter on alternative grounds. Ultimately, that left Section 230 completely untouched, passing the buck back to Congress for action, unless the court decides to hear another case that also deals with the issue.
That means the future of Section 230 is likely to remain the same as it is now, since Congress hasn’t been able to agree on how to proceed – even though lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe something needs to be done to hold tech companies accountable.
Internet companies certainly celebrated the decision by the Supreme Court, as it extends their protections against the content posted to their sites by users and third parties.
NetChoice’s vice president and general counsel, Carl Szabo, commented about the Supreme Court’s decision:
“The court went to great lengths – and really discussed Section 230 – to avoid putting its finger on the scales on either side when it comes to Section 230 itself.
“I think that I am hoping that other courts recognize that and see that it is not the role of the judicial branch to write laws. If 230 is to be adjusted, it should be done at the legislative branch, and what I’m hoping is that lawmakers simultaneously recognize the decision that came out of here.”
Section 230 was enacted by Congress in 1996 as a way to encourage the internet industry – which was just emerging at the time – to remove harmful content that was posted to their sites while also providing them with protections against potential lawsuits for this content posted by third parties.
Now, as this technology behind what is now the “modern internet” has advanced rapidly, causing massive changes in the industry, plenty of people have called for reform.
Democrats generally speaking say that Section 230 is allowing tech companies to be hosts for way too much misinformation as well as hate speech without the threat of facing any consequences for doing so.
Republicans, meanwhile, argue that Section 230 allows these same tech companies to moderate content however they want to, which often results in these liberal-leaning companies applying an anti-conservative bias toward their policies.
While both liberals and conservatives are seemingly for Section 230 reform, the reasons behind why they want that reform is what is holding up anything from getting done in Congress.
So, even though the Supreme Court has decided not to weigh in on the issue, encouraging Congress to do so, it’s unlikely for now that something will get done in the near future.