Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a warning shot today at Section 230 (Communications Decency Act) (CDA), the law that gives Big Tech broad legal immunity to host or censor content at will.
Thomas suggested in April that the Supreme Court might, in the absence of Congress’s action, narrow Section 230’s protections in a suitable case.
He reiterated the same argument this week in blunter terms, writing: “Assuming Congress doesn’t step in to clarify SS230’s scope, then we should do so in an appropriately case.”
Section 230 of CDA is essential to major tech platforms’ business models because it protects them from being held legally responsible for billions of user-generated content.
It also grants platforms immunity for removing or moderating material — less important protection as users can control filtering through block buttons and optional filters, without threatening business models on social media platforms.
Recent years have seen many Republicans suggest that Section 230 be conditioned upon platforms remaining politically neutral and open to free expression in order to protect the freedom of speech.
Thomas made a statement regarding the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant certiorari in Jane Doe. This case was about a child rapist who lured a 15-year-old girl to a meeting via Facebook. He then repeatedly raped, beat and trafficked her for sex.
In the Texas state court, the case sought to hold Facebook responsible for violating Texas’s laws on sex trafficking and other common law offenses. Although the state court granted the case regarding sex trafficking to proceed, it rejected the common law claims based on Section 230.
Thomas stated that Section 230 was not appropriate for the Supreme Court because the case involving sex trafficking was not thrown out.