SCOTUS Rules on Google, Twitter in Mixed Win for Free Speech

May 19th, 2023 8:55 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court just handed down decisions on key, complex Google and Twitter cases, and there’s unexpected good news for free speech advocates.

Fox Business reported that the Thursday rulings were in favor of Google and Twitter, declaring the Big Tech companies are not liable for ISIS terrorist attacks despite pro-terrorist content posted by users on Twitter and Google-owned YouTube. But that is not the full story. 

To the tech giants’ disappointment, the Supreme Court did not address Section 230 protections, ruling instead exclusively on whether they could be held liable under the Antiterrorism Act. 

“Google's scheme to confuse the Supreme Court failed: win for conservatives and free speech advocates,” tweeted MRC Free Speech America VP Dan Schneider. “SCOTUS opinion reconciling terrorism statute with Section 230 is not bad: win for conservatives.” 

Schneider further commented, “The lawyers opposing Google were terrible and failed to establish any kind of record the Court could have relied on to honor free speech rights. Given this reality, the best we could have hoped for is exactly what the Supreme Court did. It punted the Google case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.” 

The Twitter case was also narrowly focused, asking whether Twitter could be held liable under the Antiterrorism Act for not censoring enough. “A bad holding in this case would have given Big Tech an excuse to censor conservatives even more. They didn’t get that,” Schneider added.

Fox Business noted that the rulings declined to explain the extent of the scope of the controversial Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

MRC Free Speech America previously highlighted a little-discussed problem raised by the Google case. While free speech is vital, Big Tech has a double standard of which objectionable content it allows. “But the most important thing for people to understand is that Google and Facebook and Twitter, that they actually have intentionally and purposefully made money off of these terrorist organizations, while at the same time censoring conservatives, regular Americans, who are simply trying to voice their common sense values,” Dan Schneider said. “So we’re the targets of these Big Tech platforms, not the terrorist organizations. This is outrageous.”

The Court ruled in favor of Twitter with regard to liability under the Antiterrorism Act, and vacated the Ninth Circuit decision, which shielded Google from liability based on Section 230, and remanded it for additional consideration by the appellate court. 

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the unanimous Twitter opinion. “Defendants allegedly knew that ISIS was using their platforms but failed to stop it from doing so," his SCOTUS ruling says, per Fox Business. "Plaintiffs accordingly seek to hold Facebook, Twitter, and Google liable for the terrorist attack that allegedly injured them. We conclude, however, that plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to establish that these defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack.”

Meanwhile, the short and unsigned Google opinion said, “We need not resolve either the viability of plaintiffs’ claims as a whole or whether plaintiffs should receive further leave to amend. Rather, we think it sufficient to acknowledge that much (if not all) of plaintiffs’ complaint seems to fail under either our decision in Twitter or the Ninth Circuit’s unchallenged holdings below.”

Thus the rulings, coming in difficult and complicated court cases, are unexpectedly positive for free speech advocates.

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.