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Can Reddit and YouTube be held liable for user radicalisation?

Cases have been brought against YouTube and Reddit for spreading conspiracy theories. They are accused of being behind the radicalisation of a man who took the lives of ten black people in Buffalo, New York, almost two years ago. But can they be held liable? Michael Klos discusses this in 'Trouw'.

In Europe, online platforms are responsible for any illegal content posted online. According to an article (in Dutch) recently published in Dutch daily newspaper Trouw, platforms have a responsibility to take this content offline once it has been posted by the user and they are liable under the Digital Services Act if they fail to do this

Sectie 230 of the Communications Decency Act

But that’s not how it works in America. For this reason, platforms such as Reddit and YouTube are now invoking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As Dr Michael Klos explains, ‘the provision broadly protects online platforms from liability for content posted by third parties.’ He continues: ‘Section 230 also protects platforms from content-related decisions, i.e. if they choose to edit or remove content. That’s the ironic thing about this provision – online platforms can’t easily be forced into action, hence the growing criticism of this provision in America.’

Negligence claim

The US is increasingly looking for ways to get around the liability exemption, with prosecutors often citing platforms’ negligence. Klos adds: ‘In some cases it feels ironic, and people are left wondering whether a platform could have done more. And so nowadays, in decisions on whether legal proceedings can begin, the platforms’ defence based on Section 230 doesn’t always work. The judge often tells them to try to prove their case in negligence claims.’

But, according to Klos, that doesn’t mean Section 230 is no longer in force: ‘It could eventually result in platforms being exempt from liability anyway. In America, the bar for liability is set pretty high among platforms.’

Photo: Bastian Riccardi through Unsplash

More information

Read the full article (in Dutch) in Trouw.

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