WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Supreme Court heard the first of two cases that could have huge consequences for social media websites on Tuesday. The cases will decide if social media websites like Google, Facebook or Twitter can be liable for the content posted to the platforms.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the Gonzalez family’s case against Google. The family says they want to change the internet for the better.
They say the social media giant is partially responsible for the ISIS terrorist attack that killed their daughter, because YouTube’s system recommended more ISIS extremist content when users showed interest.
“We’re just seeking for justice,” Beatriz Gonzalez said.
“There is a lot of innocent people that went (through) what we went through and it is very, very difficult,” Jose Hernandez said.
Their attorney is seeking to chip away at a 1996 law, known as Section 230, that shields online companies from being sued for third-party content posted to their websites.
But inside the court, both conservative and liberal justices struggled to understand the plaintiff’s argument.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested the case lacks proof that Google’s algorithms were specifically used to boost ISIS messages.
“There has to be some intent to aid and abet,” she said. “You have to have knowledge that you’re doing this.”
Chief Justice John Roberts said changing the law could make websites the target of endless lawsuits.
“Many, many times more in defamation suits, discrimination suits,” he said.
Google’s defense lawyers insisted their algorithms are neutral and perform the same way regardless of the type of content someone watches.
Some justices suggested Congress is better suited to iron out the outdated details of Section 230. Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how algorithms should be regulated.
The Supreme Court will hear a related case filed against Twitter on Wednesday.