The Supreme Court’s newest ruling could decide the fate of Reddit


Joe Ravi

The Supreme Court at dusk.

Daphne L.

A legal provision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has protected Big Tech (like Google, Meta, and YouTube) for many years. It allows those companies to be safe from lawsuits about harmful content put there by users and gave them the ability to take down certain inappropriate posts if they felt it was necessary.

In the event that Section 230 is repealed by the Supreme Court, those companies will have to reexamine the way they moderate their platforms to give their users the best experience they can.

However, this isn’t the only thing that could change. On Reddit, users can upvote others’ content to promote it and cause it to be seen by more users on the platform. The repealing of Section 230 could make this action risky, and therefore less people would be willing to upvote things or do moderation if it had the chance of negatively impacting them.

In the Gonzalez v. Google case, the question was, what is the difference between recommendation and editing something (such as a Wikipedia page), and do they both fall under the same category? On apps like Reddit or TikTok, users can promote content they enjoy and recommend it to others by liking or upvoting it.

“Can we [users] be dragged into a lawsuit, even a well-meaning lawsuit, just because we put a two-star review for a restaurant, just because like we clicked downvote or upvote on that one post, just because we decided to help volunteer for our community and start taking out posts or adding in posts?” asks Ben Lee, Reddit’s general counsel. “Are [these actions] enough for us to suddenly become liable for something?”

One example of a time that Section 230 protected Reddit moderators occurred was under the subreddit r/Screenwriting, in which users were talking about which screenwriting competitions that were potentially scams. The operator of those supposed scams attempted to sue the moderator of the subreddit after the moderator pinned and commented on certain posts. The Superior Court of California in LA County excused the moderator due to the Section 230 protection. Lee said he is worried that, in the case that Section 230 is repealed, moderators could be extremely vulnerable in these situations. According to Lee, “The reality is every Reddit user plays a role in deciding what content appears on the platform. In that sense, weakening 230 can unintentionally increase liability for everyday people.”

The case for Section 230 is scheduled for February 21st and 22nd, 2023.