SCOTUS declines to rule on Section 230, again. – Gonzalez v. Google

The widely industry watched nail biter of a case, Gonzalez v. Google, has been ruled upon by the Supreme Court of the United States. Many advocates of Section 230 thought for sure that SCOTUS would ruin the application of Section 230 as we know it, however, that didn’t happen. Much to the dismay of many critics of Section 230, SCOTUS (and rightfully so under the facts of this case in my opinion) kicked the can on the issue of Section 230 and declined to address the question.


In this case, the parents and brothers of Nohemi Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen killed in the 2015 coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, sued Google, LLC under 18 U.S.C. ยงยง2333(a) and (d)(2). They alleged that Google was directly and secondarily liable for the attack that killed Gonzalez. The secondary-liability claims were based on the assertion that Google aided and abetted and conspired with ISIS through the use of YouTube, which Google owns and operates.

The District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint. However, the plaintiffs chose to appeal without amending the complaint. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of most claims, citing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but allowed the claims related to Google’s approval of ISIS videos for advertisements and revenue sharing through YouTube to proceed.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s application of Section 230. However, since the plaintiffs did not challenge the rulings on their revenue-sharing claims, and in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, the Court found that the complaint failed to state a viable claim for relief. The Court acknowledged that the complaint appeared to fail under the standards set by Twitter and the Ninth Circuit’s unchallenged holdings. Therefore, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Twitter. [Author Note: If you listen to the oral argument, you’d see just how weak of a case was brought by Plaintiff].

In summary, the Supreme Court did not address the viability of the plaintiffs’ claims but indicated that the complaint seemed to fail to state a plausible claim for relief, and therefore, declined to address the application of Section 230 in this case. The case was remanded to the Ninth Circuit for further consideration.


I’m currently sitting at the Tenth Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technology and Science. There is a lot of talk about AI, including ChatGPT. Because the Gonzalez opinion was so incredibly short by comparison, I thought I would test out ChatGPT’s ability to summarize this case. Having followed this case, and read the SCOTUS opinion myself, I was quite surprised with summary that it spit out, which is what you just read above. For those that want to read the case opinion for yourself (it’s only three pages) you can review the SCOTUS opinion linked to below. I’ve also included the link to the Twitter case as well (which is a more typical 38 page opinion). In case you are curious, I also asked ChatGPT to summarize the Twitter case, however, there is some sort of character limit as I received an error message about the request being too long. We’re all learning.

Citation: Gonzalez v. Google, 598 U.S. ___ (May 18, 2023)

Citation: Twitter v. Taamneh, 598 U.S. ___ (May 18, 2023)

DISCLAIMER: This is for general information purposes only. This should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that you are concerned with, you should seek out an attorney in your jurisdiction who may be able to advise you of your rights and options.