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How the Supreme Court ruling on Section 230 could end Reddit as we know it

But another big problem is at stake with much less attention: depending on the outcome of the case, individual users of the sites could suddenly be held accountable for regular content moderation. Many websites rely on users to moderate the community to edit, shape, delete, and promote other users’ content online—think Reddit’s upvotes or changes to the Wikipedia page. What if those users were forced to take legal risks every time they made a decision about content?

In short, courts can change Section 230 in ways that don’t just affect major platforms; Emma Llansó, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Freedom of Expression Project, warned that smaller sites like Reddit and Wikipedia that rely on community censorship would also be attacked. “It would be a huge loss to the online communities of speech if suddenly it became really dangerous for mods themselves to do their job,” she said.

IN summary of amicus filed in January, Reddit’s attorney argued that its signature upvote/downvote feature was at risk Gonzalez sues Google, the case will revisit the application of Section 230. Users “directly determine which content is promoted or less visible using Reddit’s innovative ‘upvote’ and ‘downvote’ features, ‘ the summary wrote. “All of those activities are covered by Section 230, which Congress created to immunize Internet ‘users’, not just platforms.

At the center of Gonzalez is the question of whether content “recommendation” differs from content display; this is widely understood to have broad implications for the recommendation algorithms that power platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. But it can also affect users’ rights to like and promote content in forums where they act as community moderators and effectively increase some content over others.

Reddit is questioning where the user’s preferences fit, directly or indirectly, with the interpretation of “recommendations”. “The danger is that you and I, when we use the internet, we do a lot of things without actually creating content,” said Ben Lee, general counsel of Reddit. “We are looking at other people’s content and then we interact with it. At what point do we ourselves, because of what we’ve done, recommend that content?”

According to amicus’ summary, Reddit currently has 50 million daily active users, and the site sorts its content according to whether users support or oppose posts and comments in a discussion thread. While it uses recommendation algorithms to help new users find discussions they may be interested in, much of its content recommendation system relies on these community-provided votes. . As a result, a change to community moderation would likely dramatically change the way the site works.

“We can [users] getting dragged into a lawsuit, even a lawsuit in good faith, just because we rate a restaurant two stars, just because we clicked down vote or upvoted that one post, just because we decided to help volunteer our community and start deleting posts or adding posts? Lee asked. “To be [these actions] enough for us to suddenly be responsible for something?

An “existential threat” to smaller platforms

Lee points to a case in Reddit’s recent history. In 2019, in the r/Screenwriting subreddit, users started discussing scriptwriting contests that they thought might be scams. The moderators of those alleged scams went on to sue the r/Screenwriting moderators for pinning and commenting on the posts, thus prioritizing that content. California’s superior court in LA County has exempted moderators from a lawsuit that Reddit says is protected under Section 230. Lee is concerned that a different interpretation of Section 230 could leave moderators, like interpretation in r/Screenwriting, more vulnerable to similar lawsuits in the future.



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