EPIC to Supreme Court: Internet Companies Should Face Suits for Their Harmful Conduct

December 7, 2022

Today, EPIC filed an amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google LLC, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allows internet companies to be sued for harms caused by their own conduct.

The question in the case is whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields Google from a suit alleging that it assists ISIS in recruiting members by recommending ISIS videos on YouTube. Section 230 prevents internet companies from being “treat[ed] as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by” a third party. Courts have interpreted the provision to grant internet companies broad immunity not just from claims based on harmful user-provided information, but also for claims that target harms the internet company causes through their product design and their use of third-party information.

Arguing in support of neither party, EPIC urged the Supreme Court to interpret Section 230 consistent with its original meaning, which would immunize internet companies from publishing claims that the third-party content provider could face but not from their own harmful conduct. EPIC described examples of claims that should be outside Section 230 immunity, such as products liability, discrimination, fair credit reporting, misappropriation, and others. EPIC explained that the prevailing interpretation of Section 230 swallows these suits, removing any incentive for companies to comply with the law. “Many internet companies that deploy harmful products use Section 230 as a shield instead of making their products safer, exactly the opposite of what Section 230’s drafters intended.”

EPIC was an amicus in Herrick v. Grindr, in which the Second Circuit granted Section 230 immunity to Grindr for a suit alleging various claims, including products liability claims, about Grindr’s conduct that contributed to the harassment of one of its users. EPIC frequently files amicus briefs in cases concerning individuals’ privacy rights and online harms.

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