(CTN News) – In a case involving a lawsuit alleging Reddit Inc of breaking federal law by failing to rid the discussion website of this illicit content, the Supreme Court of the United States declined on Tuesday to accept a plea by victims of child pornography to overcome legal protection for internet companies.
Supreme Court Upholds Section 230 Protection for Internet Companies in Reddit Child Pornography Case
The Supreme Court denied the appeal of the lower court’s dismissal of the proposed class action lawsuit because Section 230 of the United States Code protects internet service providers from liability for user-generated content, except claims involving child sex trafficking.
On May 19, the Supreme Court passed up a chance to limit Section 230 protection in a different case.
Users’ contributions to “interactive computer services” are shielded from liability as “publisher or speaker” of user-generated content thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996.
Cases involving allegations of child sex trafficking can now be filed against internet service providers thanks to a 2018 update to Section 230 known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).
Subreddits are forums inside Reddit where users can publish content that is then moderated by the community at large. The issue revolves around users who submit sexually explicit photographs and videos of minors to these sites.
In 2021, the parents of two minors and an ex-minor who appeared in the photos filed a lawsuit against Reddit in a California federal court, demanding monetary damages for their children.
The plaintiffs claimed that Reddit violated a federal child sex trafficking law by doing too little to delete or prevent child pornography and by financially benefitting from the illicit posts through advertising.
In 2022, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that plaintiffs must prove that an internet corporation “knowingly benefited” from the sex trafficking to invoke the exception under FOSTA.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the charges “suggest only that Reddit ‘turned a blind eye’ to the unlawful content posted on its platform, not that it actively participated in sex trafficking.”
Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Section 230 Shield in Lawsuit Accusing Reddit of Hosting Child Pornography
In court documents, Reddit claimed it allows users to identify postings they believe include child sexual exploitation materials and has teams specifically committed to removing illegal content.
In a case that sought to make Google LLC accountable under federal anti-terrorism legislation for allegedly pushing content by the Islamic State militant group to users of its YouTube video-sharing website, the Supreme Court declined to rule on an attempt to modify Section 230 on May 19. The parent company of Google and YouTube is Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O).
There have been calls to review Section 230 to ensure that firms may be held accountable for information on their platforms from people of all ideologies and political persuasions, including Democratic President Joe Biden and his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
In their petition to the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs argued that “child pornography is the root cause of much of the sex trafficking that occurs in the world today, and it is primarily traded on the internet, through websites that claim immunity” under Section 230.
They said that upholding the 9th Circuit’s ruling “would immunise a huge class of violators who play a role in the victimisation of children.”