“All publishing requires organization,” she said.
She added: “Helping users find the proverbial needle in the haystack is an existential necessity on the internet. Search engines thus tailor what users see based on what’s known about users. So does Amazon, TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, Yelp, Zillow, and countless video, music, news, job-finding, social media and dating websites. Exposing websites to liability for implicitly recommending third-party context defies the text and threatens today’s internet.”
A ruling against Google, she said, would either force sites to take down any content that was remotely problematic or to allow all content no matter how vile. “You have ‘The Truman Show’ versus a horror show,” she said.
Justice Kagan asked Ms. Blatt if Section 230 would protect “a pro-ISIS” algorithm or one that promoted defamatory speech. Ms. Blatt said yes.
Section 230 has faced criticism across the political spectrum. Many liberals say it has shielded tech platforms from responsibility for disinformation, hate speech and violent content. Some conservatives say the provision has allowed the platforms to grow so powerful that they can effectively exclude voices on the right from the national conversation.
The justices will hear arguments in a related case on Wednesday, also arising from a terrorist attack. That case, Twitter v. Taamneh, No. 21-1496, was brought by the family of Nawras Alassaf, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Istanbul in 2017.
The question in that case is whether Twitter, Facebook and Google may be sued under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, on the theory that they abetted terrorism by permitting the Islamic State to use their platforms. If the justices were to say no, the case against Google argued on Tuesday could be moot.
Whatever happens in the cases argued this week, both involving the interpretation of statutes, the court is very likely to agree to consider a looming First Amendment question arising from laws enacted in Florida and Texas: May states prevent large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express?