A federal appeals court has agreed to hear a case that would limit the ability of Big Tech outlets to summarily censor the online content of their customers.
The court agreed to hear arguments to assess the protections in Section 230 immunity that allows big tech to claim that it has the right to censor users at will because they are not “publishers” that would otherwise be covered by libel laws.
The claim is that Facebook, Twitter, or other such companies, don’t create the content themselves (making them creators or publishers) and that all they do is manage the posts created by their users. And since the Big Tech giants don’t create the content, they can’t be held to libel laws. But they also say that since they don’t create the content, they have to right to delete anything they don’t like after it appears on their platforms, Just The News reported.
Last week, a lower court sided with Big Tech in the civil right case Domen v. Vimeo. The case was brought against the website Vimeo by the Church United after the Internet company took the church’s page down saying it violated their terms of service. The group was touting “conversion therapy,” which is the idea that gays can be trained away from homosexuality with mental health help. Vimeo said the posts violated its ban on things that upset the gay lobby.
Last Friday, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York upheld a lower court’s ruling against the church and in favor of Big Tech. However, just after that ruling, the entire Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rehear the case.
The case could set an important precedent in the right of Americans to exercise their free speech online.
“This ruling puts Section 230 immunity in the crosshairs of judicial review. We suspect that the en banc court recognizes that Big Tech is not exempt from state and federal civil rights laws,” said attorney Robert Tyler, general counsel for the Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
“Section 230 was not intended to give Big Tech the right to exclude persons from their platform just because the customer is black, Muslim, white, Christian, homosexual, or formerly homosexual. That is plain invidious discrimination,” Tyler added.
If the case goes against the church group, it is likely that the case will be put before the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, it may end up there, regardless.
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