Two court cases are headed to the Supreme Court that could have lasting and real consequences on how businesses use the internet in general – and social media in particular. The cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh, challenge Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which offers legal immunity to internet platforms for content posted by individuals.
The plaintiffs in these cases allege that the platforms in question violated federal anti-terrorism laws by refusing to take down certain content. In the past, companies like Twitter and Google have not been held liable for posts by individual users due to Section 230 protections. That could change, according to a Stanford Law School professor.
Watching for Change
“We should be prepared for the Court to change a lot about how the internet functions, but I think they could go in so many different directions that it’s very hard to predict the nature of the change, or what anybody should do in anticipation of it,” Daphne Keller, who teaches at Stanford and directs the university’s Cyber Policy Center, told The New Yorker.
This, of course, has social media companies watching the cases closely, and so are businesses that use social media to market and sell their goods.
Immunity or Not?
Gonzalez v. Google could have an enormous impact, if for no other reason than that it could alter how one of the biggest search engines on the planet operates. The plaintiff is seeking relief from the Court by arguing against the traditional understanding that platforms have immunity from some kinds of legal claims based on the individual user’s right to freedom of speech. If Gonzalez’s challenge to the law is successful, it means that liability shifts from an individual who posts the potentially objectionable content to the platform itself.
If these cases are successful, it could result in a much more locked-down and curated internet experience. This will affect how content appears in ranked news feeds, as recommendations, and as amplified posts. This means that the decision in these two cases can potentially affect search engine optimization. If that happens, it will fundamentally alter the way we use the internet.
At Strong Automotive Merchandising, our motto for 2023 is “Lead With Speed,” and as we pay careful attention to these court cases, we’re reminded that sometimes in advertising and marketing, you must use your experience and data in order to pivot to remain ahead of the curve.
Will the courts rewrite the rules for the internet? No one can say for certain. But our team of Meta- and Google-certified digital marketers is keeping close tabs on the evolution of online marketing opportunities.