Alliance Weighs In on Critical Internet Liability Cases Before SCOTUS

January 2023 US Policy Update

Developers Alliances Submits Brief in SCOTUS Internet Liability Case

On January 19, the Developers Alliance submitted an amicus brief in the case of Gonzalez v. Google LLC which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The case hinges on the high court’s interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 protects content moderation by insulating platforms from liability for user created content. It focuses civil liability on Internet users for the content they create, leaving in place platform liability for its own creative content. The case will be heard on February 21, 2023.

The Alliance also joined CCIA, NetChoice, SIIA, Chamber of Progress, Internet Infrastructure Coalition, CTA, and ACT in a brief on December 6, 2022 in a similar case, Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh. The case will be heard on February 22, 2023. 

Developers Alliance CEO Bruce Gustafson said:

“Since the internet was born, courts have struggled to map real-world legal principles into the virtual world. When courts go astray, it’s up to lawmakers to put them on the right path, as Congress did in safeguarding moderation with Section 230. Supreme Court procedure welcomes voices like the developer community to help inform them as they consider questions that reverberate far beyond the litigants in the courtroom. Content moderation is a fundamental part of how the internet has always operated. Without it, the internet is just another TV station.”

Data Privacy Week the Perfect Time to Remind Congress to Act on Privacy

During the week of January 23, developers and firms around the world are working to raise data security awareness as part of Data Privacy Week. Data Privacy Week was created in 2008 by the National Cybersecurity Alliance to help consumers better understand their power to control their own data, as well as helping firms understand why it’s important to respect their users’ data. This week provides us with a great opportunity to reflect on the work Congress accomplished over the last two years to advance a national privacy framework. It’s also a time to remember to urge Congress to do more to help spur innovation and protect consumers. 

It’s time for this Congress to reintroduce this legislation and make sure it clears both chambers of Congress. Too much is riding on the privacy debate. Devs need a clear understanding of the privacy landscape, and consumers need to know their data is safe and secure regardless of what state they –or the app they shared their data with –are in. Consumer trust is paramount to the app industry, and if done correctly, a broad privacy bill will only help make consumers safer and grow the app ecosystem.

Alliance’s Geoff Lane Interviewed by Contrast Security on Data Security

Geoff Lane, Head of US Policy at the Alliance, was recently interviewed by Contrast Security on data security. You can listen to the podcast here. The wide-ranging interview covered everything from encryption to data privacy labels. At its heart, the conversation focused on why consumer trust is paramount to the app ecosystem. The Alliance is appreciative for the opportunity to have this discussion, and looks forward to future conversations. 

Bipartisan 230 Bill Introduced in House of Representatives

In late December, Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Ken Buck (R-CO) introduced the Platform Integrity Act (H.R. 9695). The bill would amend section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by removing immunity for online platforms that promote illegal, violent, or extreme online content. 

The bill mirrors the Biden Administration’s position in the Gonzalez v. Google LLC case. Because it was introduced so late in the 117th Congress the bill did not receive a vote. We anticipate it will be reintroduced this Congress, and will likely receive committee hearings and a vote on the House floor thanks to the increased scrutiny of section 230 among lawmakers. 

Said Representative Cicilline:

“Section 230(c)(1)’s shield protecting online platforms from liability for third-party content was never intended to give those platforms free rein to spread extremism, hate, and terrorism online. When an online platform is the one that recommends violent and illegal content, it should be held responsible for these actions. This bill removes an unwarranted obstacle preventing those injured by the promotion of extremist content from being able to pursue recovery from the platform.”

Said Representative Ken Buck:

“Clarifying this language and making it clear that Section 230(c)(1) does not grant immunity to online platforms that choose to promote illegal, violent, or extreme online content is critical to our society. Currently, Big Tech platforms are able to avoid any serious liability or accountability for their actions. This legislation will fix the misinterpretation of Section 230 immunity and ensure that Big Tech can no longer profit off of promoting terrorists’ content on their platforms.”

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By Geoff Lane

Policy Counsel & Head of US Policy Geoff Lane serves as the Developer Alliance’s head of U.S. policy. In this role he oversees the organization’s federal legislative and regulatory agenda as well as state-level efforts. Prior to joining the Developers Alliance in 2022, Geoff worked with senior Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. Since his time on Capitol Hill, he has held senior roles at various technology trade associations (including a previous stint at the Developers Alliance). At each stop he led efforts at the intersection of innovation and policy. He has worked on critical policy issues including privacy, encryption, patent reform, workforce development, corporate tax, tax nexus, and research and development. Geoff holds a B.A. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. When he is not working, you can find him booing all of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams. Geoff is based in Washington, D.C.

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