UW News

October 3, 2022

UW law professor discusses tech company liability cases before US Supreme Court

UW News

UW law professor Eric Schnapper has argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court – his first was in 1972.

On Monday, the Court agreed to hear his two latest, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh, both of which concern tech companies’ liability. Schnapper is representing the individuals in both, on which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled. He offered the following comments on the cases, which are expected to be heard this winter.


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on which you filed writs of certiorari. Can you please sum up the cases and what you want the court to review in both?

Eric Schnapper: The first case, Gonzalez v. Google, concerns section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  Section 230 bars lawsuits against social media companies because they permitted others to post things (e.g., libel) on their websites.  The question is whether it protects social media companies that recommend things others have posted.

Eric Schnapper

The second case, Twitter v. Taamneh, concerns when a company can be liable for aiding and abetting terrorism.  Twitter and other social media companies permitted ISIS to post recruiting and fundraising stuff.


This is the first time the court is taking up Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, itself a 26-year-old law. Why is Section 230 important, and what makes it pertinent now?

ES: What Section 230 does and does not protect is important because it affects whether a social media site has a legal incentive to keep dangerous posts, videos, etc. off their websites. It has been obviously very important for several years.

[In these two cases], judges in lower courts had disagreed about the issues, and the issues are very important.


For more information, contact Schnapper at schnapp@uw.edu.