Will The Supreme Court End Social Media As We Know It This Week?

Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

The Supreme Court’s ruling on a pair of ISIS terrorism cases this week will rest on the nine justices’ interpretation of 26 words written in 1996 that collectively have come to define the nature and scope of modern online expression. The ruling could fundamentally alter the types of content social companies are held legally liable for and could force them to re-examine the ways they use recommendation algorithms to serve users content. Though that sounds esoteric, tech companies being liable for your posts would drastically change your everyday experience on social media.

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Those 26 words, officially known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, have been referred to as the “backbone of the internet” by supporters and as an overly broad digital alibi hamstringing accountability by its opponents. In a nutshell, Section 230 both prevents online platforms from facing lawsuits if one of its users posts something illegal and shields them from legal liability for moderating their own content. In 2023, Google, Meta, Amazon, and Twitter’s ability to boost certain content, curate stories, downrank harmful posts, or ban belligerent assholes without constantly looking over their shoulder for a barrage of multi-million dollar lawsuits—that’s all thanks to 230.

“This decision could have a devastating impact on online expression,” Alexandra Reeve Givens, president and CEO of

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