May 18, 2023, Covington Alert
Today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gonzalez v. Google LLC, a case about whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230) protected YouTube’s recommendation algorithms from a claim of secondary liability under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). In a short, three-page per curiam opinion, the Court avoided addressing the Section 230 issue entirely. Instead, the Court held that much of the plaintiffs’ ATA complaint would fail to state a claim for relief under the Court’s separate decision in Twitter v. Taamneh (also handed down today), given that plaintiffs’ counsel in Gonzalez conceded that the allegations in the Gonzalez complaint were materially identical to the Twitter complaint. The Court also relied on the fact that plaintiffs did not seek review of a separate part of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion that addressed ATA claims related to revenue-sharing. Because the Court found that the underlying ATA claim would likely fail on the merits, it found it unnecessary to reach the interpretation of Section 230 immunity. This result was foreshadowed at the oral argument, where the Justices appeared to be concerned with line-drawing and potential unintended consequences of applying Section 230 to the algorithms at issue. The Court found a way out of deciding the Section 230 question in Gonzalez, but it remains to be seen whether the Court will look for a different vehicle to address the scope of Section 230 immunity in the future.
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