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Virginia: Virginia joins multistate coalition to hold Big Tech accountable

Virginia Attorney General, Jason Miyares, announced, on 7 December 2022, that Virginia had joined a coalition of 25 states and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief at the US Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Google. In particular, Miyares stated that the brief urges the Court to interpret Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (1996) ('the Act') narrowly to ensure technology companies remain accountable to state consumer protection laws, noting that expansion of internet 'publisher' immunity under Section 230 has severely hampered their ability to remedy internet-related wrongs. 

More specifically, the case behind the brief emanates from the murder of an individual in Paris following an attack by ISIS-affiliated terrorists, where the individual's family filed a suit alleging that YouTube's algorithms led users toward recruitment videos for ISIS, and therefore Google LLC, YouTube's parent company, was partially responsible for the individual's death. In this regard, Miyares specified that Google had claimed that Section 230 of the Act, which says internet companies cannot be liable as publishers for material posted by users, prevented any liability, and that the trial court, adopting a wide interpretation of Section 230 of the Act, decided that a court could not consider whether the company might be liable for the effect of its algorithms, and the Court of Appeals upheld that decision. 

Notably, Miyares highlighted that if the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts' ruling and adopts a narrower interpretation of Section 230 of the Act, companies could no longer claim blanket immunity under Section 230 of the Act and states could hold technology companies accountable for unfair and deceptive conduct toward consumers. As such, Miyares noted that the coalition of Attorneys General urge this Court to adopt an interpretation of publisher immunity that preserves the states' traditional authority to allocate loss among private parties and hold technology companies accountable. 

You can read the press release here