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Google's Algorithm Has Its Day In Court

A group of people in formal clothes walks at the bottom of the steps of the United States Supreme Court, which has a light stone exterior and towering columns
Jose Hernandez and Beatriz Gonzalez, stepfather and mother of Nohemi Gonzalez, walk with their attorney Eric Schnapper outside the U.S. Supreme Court following Tuesday's oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google.
(Drew Angerer
Getty Images)
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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving the 2015 Islamic State killing of Southern California student Nohemi Gonzalez while she was studying abroad in Paris.

Lawyers for Gonzalez's family argue Google should be held liable for the algorithmic recommendations that led to the radicalization of the perpetrators, calling into question the current language of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Why it matters

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a landmark early internet regulation that treats interactive internet-based companies the same way phone providers are viewed, shielding them from legal responsibility over any content users broadcast on their platforms. Any change to the act would result in major consequences for these platforms and their users.

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What's next

Final decisions from the justices on this session's cases won’t be released until this summer.

Several justices have asserted that the outcome of a similar internet case being argued on Wednesday, which focuses on Twitter and the Anti-Terrorism Act, would answer the Section 230 question being posed in Gonzalez v. Google.

That other case, Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, concerns whether a social media company like Twitter can be sued under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act for hosting content involved in an act of international terrorism.

The backstory

This is the first time the Supreme Court has taken up a case challenging Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Legal tech experts remain divided on the ramifications for the rest of the internet if regulations in the CDA were to change.

Listen to the conversation

You can hear a legal tech expert and a journalist covering the court case discuss the details on LAist 89.3's talk show AirTalk, which aired Tuesday.

Listen: What's next in the Supreme Court case examining Section 230
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