The plaintiffs in Gonzalez v. Google are relatives of a U.S. citizen murdered by ISIS terrorists in France. They alleged that Google violated the Anti-Terrorism Act when it affirmatively recommended ISIS-produced terrorist videos to its users, thereby aiding, abetting, and/or providing substantial assistance to ISIS. The Ninth Circuit held that, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Google is wholly immune from lawsuits arising from its recommendations of content posted on YouTube. The Supreme Court has now accepted review of this case.

Free Speech For People’s amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision and hold Google accountable for its algorithms. The amicus brief explains that (a) online platforms that use algorithms to generate recommendations or other content are still responsible for that content; (b) the lower courts’ expansion of immunity to any activity a publisher might undertake is wholly unsupported by the text of Section 230; and (c) the correct textual reading of Section 230 is supported by the fact that targeted recommendations can cause serious harm to the public interest and to our democracy.

Key Facts

Caption Gonzalez v. Google
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Docket No.


Status Oral Argument Scheduled for February 21, 2023
Plaintiffs Reynaldo Gonzalez, et al.
Defendants Google LLC


Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act provides provides protection to companies that host online platforms and to people who use these platforms, by granting immunity to these platforms and users in lawsuits that seek to hold them responsible for content posted by another user. However, many courts have now stretched this protection far beyond what the text of Section 230 supports, to immunize online platforms even for content that they create, develop, and provide to their users. As a result, companies like Google have been able to make personalized recommendations to users while being completely sheltered from any liability that might arise from their recommendations.

In 2015, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen was killed in Paris, France during a terrorist attack carried out by members of ISIS. Her relative sued Google, arguing in part that Google was liable for recommending ISIS videos to its users. The case made its way to the Ninth Circuit, which held that Google is wholly immune from lawsuits related to the company’s practice of making personalized recommendations to its users. The case is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Free Speech For People’s amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Section 230, properly read, does not shield online platforms from liability arising out of the content that they produce themselves, whether or not this content is generated by an employee or an algorithm.

Google creates the content that its algorithms produce. A company is not acting “neutrally” when its algorithms are specifically designed to maximize profit.

Google is free to make such recommendations; but Google is responsible for them, not its users.

The use of algorithmic targeting by social media platforms have been associated with:

  • causing physical and psychological disorders among young people;
  • spreading significant and damaging disinformation about COVID-19 and other public health issues;
  • sexual predation and exploitation;
  • inciting violence, including genocidal violence;
  • interfering with free and fair elections;
  • and inciting a violent insurrection at the United States capitol.

For too long, Section 230 has been wrongly interpreted to shield online platforms from liability for their own content.

Read our amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google.

Read our press release here.

Learn more about our efforts to hold social media giants accountable, via our proposed model legislation, the Big Tech Accountability Act.

Major Case Developments and Documents