Should tech companies be liable for extremist content they host online?

“Today's arguments really dealt with this issue of when tech companies are immune from liability. Tomorrow will really be about when tech companies could potentially face liability — under what circumstances if they lose that legal shield,” says Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School. Photo by Shutterstock.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that could affect the future of the internet. For decades, tech companies have not been held liable for the content they host. They’re protected by a provision of the Communications Decency Act — also known as Section 230. Now, the high court is reexamining the section — all 26 words of it.

“So 230 was passed in 1996. This was the chat room era, this was so far removed from the era of YouTube videos and algorithms and posts on Facebook. And they're trying to grapple with: How do we update these laws, how do they apply in a completely different world from where they were passed?” says Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School.