The fate of Big Tech rests with a Supreme Court that lacks relevant knowledge
The Supreme Court is at the center of the controversy surrounding Big Tech and content moderation, but several experts worry that the court is ill-suited to handle it.
Why it matters: In the past, the court has struggled to adapt to new technology. There is a genuine concern that the judges may end up causing more controversy than they resolve as they plunge into the political conflict over social media algorithms.
The federal legislation known as Section 230, which states that tech platforms are not accountable for what their users choose to post, is expected to be discussed in court this week in two cases.
Both lawsuits, one against Google and the other against Twitter, make the case that although digital corporations may not be held responsible for the content of users’ posts, they should be held accountable for what their algorithms promote or recommend.
Even the engineers who work on those goods may not completely understand the effects of such a choice for several years.
According to Evelyn Douek, a Stanford law professor who specializes in technology law, “the court can think it’s doing one thing when it’s actually doing something entirely different.” That is inadequate for the issue.
Every side in a Supreme Court case must worry that the court will find against them, but the danger within the tech industry is that a judgement by the Supreme Court restricting Section
In a roundtable with reporters last week, Berin Szoka, head of the libertarian-leaning think group TechFreedom, said that even if Google and Twitter succeed, “the court still says dangerous things… that end up weaponizing the legal system against court moderation.”
Jess Miers, an attorney representing the pro-tech Chamber of Progress, wrote: “There is a real risk that the Court may simply neither grasp nor comprehend the technical complexity that drive the modern web.”
The Supreme Court is a naturally slow-moving organization that strives to find solutions to issues by looking for one overarching concept that will stand the test of time. And that’s really difficult to reconcile with sophisticated, developing technology.
The conflict between privacy and law enforcement has been particularly obvious in these situations.