January 19, 2023

Sen. Wyden and former Rep. Cox Urge Supreme Court To Uphold Precedent on Section 230

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and former Representative Chris Cox, R-Calif., the original co-authors of Section 230, today submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to uphold decades of precedent concerning their 1996 law. 

Section 230 is a pioneering internet law provision that ensures the person who creates content — such as a tweet, blog post or video — is the one legally responsible for it. Section 230 has been called the most important law protecting speech online, and “among the most important protections of free expression in the United States in the digital age.”

Wyden and Cox filed the amicus brief to Gonzalez v. Google, a case involving whether Section 230 allows Google to face lawsuits for YouTube’s algorithms that suggest third-party content to users. The co-authors reminded the court that internet companies were already recommending content to users when the law went into effect in 1996, and that algorithms are just as important for removing undesirable posts as suggesting content users might want to see.

“Section 230 protects targeted recommendations to the same extent that it protects other forms of content presentation,” the members wrote. “That interpretation enables Section 230 to fulfill Congress’s purpose of encouraging innovation in content presentation and moderation. The real-time transmission of user-generated content that Section 230 fosters has become a backbone of online activity, relied upon by innumerable Internet users and platforms alike. Section 230’s protection remains as essential today as it was when the provision was enacted.”  

Wyden and Cox made clear YouTube failed in its good faith efforts to detect ISIS videos, which are heinous, unacceptable, often illegal, and completely banned under YouTube's terms of service. They also made clear that Section 230 does not protect actions by companies that are not publishing users’ content, including Snapchat’s speed filter, Amazon’s delivery of defective merchandise or sites that allowed illegal home rental bookings.  

Wyden and Cox’s brief was supported by attorneys Don Verrelli, Ginger Anders, Dahlia Mignouna,  Leonard Mangat and Jonathan Blavin of Munger, Tolles and Olson. Yale Law School’s David Dinielli and Prof. Jack Balkin also are counsel on the brief. They worked with a team of students from Yale Law School’s Tech Accountability & Competition Project, who also contributed to the brief. Senior Counsel Ryan Carroll, Deputy Policy Director Keith Chu and Policy Advisor Rachel Lang of Senator Wyden’s office also assisted in drafting the brief.  

Read the full amicus filing here.


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