U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court this week in the case Gonzalez v. Google, dealing with online platforms and the Section 230 immunity they receive for their algorithmic recommendations.
In his brief, Senator Hawley argues that courts have consistently misread the text of Section 230: Congress never intended the law to shield companies’ knowing distribution of unlawful content. In this case, Google promoted videos from ISIS-aligned terrorists overseas via YouTube – materials that the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a U.S. student studying in France, says led to their daughter’s murder. Senator Hawley’s brief argues that Google should face liability for its content recommendations.
“Google knows it has illegal content on its platforms, but they constantly point to Section 230 as their get-out-of-jail-free card. Enough,” said Senator Hawley, in response to filing his brief. “In no way should Big Tech have this kind of immunity from the harm being inflicted by their platforms. With this case, the Supreme Court has a critical opportunity to restore the law’s original meaning and correct years of bad precedent. The Court should hold tech companies accountable for pushing illegal material to their users.”
Sen. Hawley has been a longtime leader in arguing that platforms should be held liable for their content-recommendation decisions. That’s why he introduced the Federal Big Tech Tort Act last year, which would impose liability on tech platforms for the harms their products inflict on children, in response to research findings that Meta knew Instagram was harmful to children and did nothing about it.
Full text of the brief can be found here.