Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeOpinionEditorialsGonzalez v. Google Proves the Need To Regulate Big Tech

Gonzalez v. Google Proves the Need To Regulate Big Tech

- advertisement -

Gonzalez v. Google, a court case currently pending a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), has the potential to change the entire landscape of the internet. The case centers around Section 230, a section of U.S. code passed through the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Section 230 has protected social media companies from legal action against third-party content posted on their platform, essentially shielding these corporations from having to regulate user content. This has caused an explosion in false information and dangerous extremist views. 

The case stems from a terrorist attack where 23-year-old American Nohemi Gonazlez was killed. If Gonzalez wins, the social media companies would be held liable for the harmful third-party content posted on their sites. However, this decision has multiple avenues it can explore. The court could flat-out say yes or no to the question of whether Section 230 immunizes companies from the targeted recommendations they make to users. The court could also rule that Section 230 only applies to certain content, such as content that is perceived as non-threatening and not dangerous to society. With social media becoming a catalyst of hate speech that translates into real-world harm, it’s clear that the archaic Section 230 is not valid anymore. By implementing a specialized government institution that regulates Big Tech, social media companies would serve the interest of the public rather than the pockets of tech companies. 

The world of technology is rapidly evolving and the government is not able to adequately regulate it. While Big Tech continues to shape our politics, with misinformation running rampant on Facebook before the 2016 Presidential Election, these companies do not face any accountability. The infrastructure of these platforms boosts hateful and misleading content that radicalizes peoples’ beliefs and incites violence. Though Gonzalez has the potential to be a key step in regulating Big Tech, the U.S. government is severely failing in limiting these companies’ power and ensuring that these platforms protect citizens’ rights.

Government officials are not equipped with the necessary expertise to adequately regulate the complicated, growing field of technology. This has been made apparent in the Gonzalez case. Justice Elena Kagan said the justices are “not the nine greatest experts on the internet.” This lack of knowledge not only applies to the Supreme Court, but all branches of government. As technology continues to advance, government officials lacking the necessary knowledge to effectively develop policies that address challenges in the technological landscape.

Social media facilitated the Jan. 6 insurrection. Violent white supremacist propaganda has spread through social media platforms, transforming online hate into extremist-related killings. For example, the gunman behind the mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store in May 2022 was a white supremacist that plagiarized the Christchurch shooter’s white supremacist text in his own manifesto. The internet’s ability to radicalize has been proven repeatedly, but Section 230 is inhibiting lawmakers’ capability to enact laws that could curb such deadly misinformation. 

Social media companies directly profit from extremist content at the expense of  putting human lives at risk. This industry remains unregulated, enabling the exploitation that is causing violence while corporations build enormous fortunes. Through advertising revenue, Facebook and other platforms profit from hate speech, political propaganda and misinformation. While Justices and the broader government remain confused, social media is directly inflicting harm and chaos onto society.

Governmental officials’ lack of education on technology highlights the need for an informed bureaucratic institution that can check Big Tech. Though Gonzalez is addressing social media’s content immunity, problems such as the selling of consumer data and the growing power Big Tech is gaining in other industries remain untouched. Our society urgently needs a new era of antitrust enforcement with a focused government institution that serves to address these issues. 

The court’s decision in Gonzalez v. Google will display the government’s attitude towards addressing the regulation of Big Tech. If the decision completely protects Section 230, it means that the government will continue to fall behind the transforming world of technology. If Section 230 is repealed or deemed not applicable to harmful content, it will be a strong move to ensure that social media stops amplifying false, hateful ideals. 

Regardless, this case has served as another demonstration of the U.S. government not being equipped with the right resources to handle these problems. In order for social media to be a platform that serves the public rather than the pockets of Big Tech companies, the creation of a federal oversight agency for digital matters is vital.

Sriskandha Kandimalla is an Opinion Intern for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at skandima@uci.edu