US Supreme Court votes 9-0 to kick out Isis lawsuit that would have transformed the internet

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The US Supreme Court has kicked out a lawsuit aiming to make Google and Twitter liable for videos endorsing the Islamic State terror group, ending a legal battle that could have transformed the rules governing the internet.

Top judges dismissed a case brought by relatives of a terror attack victim who claimed that one of the world’s biggest tech companies was aiding and abetting Isis by funnelling advertising revenue to it.

The court said: “The fact that some bad actors took advantage of these platforms is insufficient to state a claim that defendants knowingly gave substantial assistance and thereby aided and abetted those wrongdoers’ acts.”

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The decision, which stretches across two separate but very similar cases brought against Google and Twitter, upholds a controversial shield law for US tech companies called Section 230.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says websites cannot be held liable for content uploaded by their users.

Critics have said the act’s protections are too broad and protect obviously illicit content from takedowns. Free speech advocates say it is wrong to hold platforms liable for postings made by third parties.

US courts have previously interpreted Section 230 broadly, holding that it also protects automatic recommendations made by social media algorithms.

In Thursday’s decision, the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a US citizen killed by terrorists, was suing Google by claiming the Big Tech company had hosted Isis propaganda videos and shared advertising proceeds with the organisation through YouTube’s revenue sharing system.

The 23-year-old design student was murdered in a Paris attack in 2015.

Summarising Miss Gonzalez’s family’s case, the Supreme Court said: “All of their claims broadly centre on the use of YouTube, which Google owns and operates, by Isis and Isis supporters.”

In dismissing the case, judges referred to a near-identical lawsuit brought against Twitter which was also thrown out on Thursday, saying it was too tangential to proceed.

They added: “We therefore decline to address the application of Section 230 that appears to state little, if any, plausible claim for relief.”

Democrat senator Mark Warner of Virginia introduced a bill earlier this year which he said would force social media companies to take liability for “harmful scams, harassment and violent extremism that runs rampant across their platforms”.

[Top image: Beatriz Gonzalez, right, the mother of 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, a student killed in the Paris terrorist attacks, and stepfather Jose Hernandez, speak outside the US Supreme Court – AP Photo/Alex Brandon© AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

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