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Gonzalez v. Google

Post categories

  1. Content Restrictions

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Date Filed: Jan. 19, 2023

Update: On May 18, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit in light of its decision in Twitter v. Taamneh. In Taamneh, which was decided on the same day as Gonzalez v. Google, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a unanimous court and rejected allegations that, by hosting terrorist content, social media companies “aided and abetted” a terrorist attack. By rejecting this theory of liability, the Supreme Court avoided weighing on the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes platforms from liability for the content they host and was at issue in Gonzalez. (The Reporters Committee joined a friend-of-the-court brief in Taamneh urging this outcome.)

Background: Reynaldo Gonzalez, the father of a woman killed in a 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, France, sued Google, claiming that the company should be held liable for aiding and abetting terrorism because YouTube, which Google owns, recommended ISIS content to users through its computer algorithm. (YouTube does remove terrorist content from its platform.)

A federal district court granted Google’s motion to dismiss the case. The court held that YouTube’s recommendations were protected under 47 U.S.C. 230, which generally shields websites from liability for hosting third-party content. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, prompting Gonzalez to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Our Position: The Supreme Court should reject the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 230 and affirm the lower court’s decision.

  • Section 230 provides important benefits to journalists and news organizations.
  • Petitioners’ interpretation of Section 230 is unsupported by its text and would hinder core journalistic activities.

Attorneys at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP represented the Reporters Committee and the Media Law Resource Center in this friend-of-the-court brief.

Quote: “The protections that Section 230 provides for the free flow of information online are vital to the work of journalists and news organizations around the country.”

Related: The Reporters Committee also joined a friend-of-the-court brief in Twitter v. Taamneh, a companion case before the Supreme Court that concerns whether platforms that host terrorist content could be held liable for aiding and abetting under federal civil law.

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