Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Child Case

Supreme Court Won't Hear a Special Child Case

( – The internet is a vastly useful tool in many ways, but it does have a sinister side. Inappropriate child content runs rampant on the dark web, and thousands of people have been arrested for the transmission or download of such atrocious material. Several people have sued social media companies for the alleged facilitation of child sex abuse to little avail. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case involving the matter.

Jane Does v Reddit

In 2021, victims of the crime sued Reddit, accusing the company of profiting from child abuse on its site. It alleged the discussion website did not do enough to moderate the content and subsequently benefited financially from the posts, noting that an increased number of views garners more advertiser interest and boosts revenue.

At the heart of the issue is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. When the Ninth Circuit Court ruled on the matter, it referred to this US Code, which shields internet companies from liabilities concerning content that third parties post. However, in 2018, there was an amendment to Section 230, which rolled back protections for those that “participat[e] in a venture,” which means “knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating” the crime.

In October 2022, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals issued a ruling in favor of Reddit, saying the plaintiffs “failed to state a sex trafficking claim.” It added that they didn’t allege the social media site “knowingly participated in or benefitted from” such a venture. As such, it contended that Reddit wasn’t liable for trafficking law violations perpetrated by its users.

The plaintiffs appealed, but despite pleas that leaving the decision in place “would immunize a huge class of violators who play a role in the victimization of children,” the case didn’t go very far.

Supreme Court Turns Away Appeal

On Tuesday, May 30, the SCOTUS turned away the case, declining to hear the appeal. In doing so, it passed on the opportunity to potentially narrow the protections of internet companies in the face of Section 230. This denial leaves the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling in place.

The Supreme Court also declined on May 19, to rule on a case brought against Google for allegedly pushing Islamic State content, in another likely signal that the high court might just want to leave the subject of reshaping the policy to Congress, according to legal experts who spoke with Gizmodo.

Despite calls from prominent politicians, including President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, Congress has failed to narrow Section 230’s scope to date.

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