Virginia Attorney General joins bipartisan multistate coalition to hold Big Tech accountable

File photo of gavel and scales of justice.
File photo of gavel and scales of justice.(MGN)
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 10:39 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Attorney General Jason Miyares announced Wednesday that Virginia joined a bipartisan coalition of 25 States and the District of Columbia.

The coalition is urging the United States Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Google to interpret Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (1996) narrowly to ensure technology companies remain accountable to state consumer protection laws.

In the amicus brief, the States explain that the judicial expansion of internet “publisher” immunity under Section 230 has impacted the States’ ability to fix internet-related wrongs.

The Attorney General’s Office says that although the act was originally meant to serve as a narrow protection from defamation liability, Section 230 has become an all-purpose license to target ordinary users with potentially harmful third-party conduct while profiting from it.

The case emerged from a lawsuit stemming from the murder of 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez in 2015. Goznalez, along with at least 130 other people, was killed in Paris in an attack by ISIS-affiliated terrorists. Gonzalez’s family filed suit alleging that YouTube’s algorithms led users toward recruitment videos for ISIS, and therefore Google, YouTube’s parent company, was partially responsible for his death. Google claimed that Section 230, which says internet companies cannot be liable as publishers for material posted by users, prevented any liability.

The trial court decided that Section 230 meant a court could not consider whether the company might be liable for the effect of its algorithms, and a divided panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

If the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts’ ruling and adopts a narrower interpretation of the law based on the actual text of the statute, companies could no longer claim blanket immunity under Section 230 and States could hold technology companies accountable for unfair and deceptive conduct toward consumers.

This bipartisan coalition of attorneys general urge this Court to adopt an interpretation of publisher immunity that preserves the States’ traditional authority to allocate loss among private parties.

Attorney General Miyares is joined in this effort by attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

To read the filing in its entirety, click here.