Amy L. Landers, professor of law and associate dean for faculty research at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, who also directs the law school’s Intellectual Property Law Concentration, was quoted in a March 8 Philadelphia Inquirer article regarding how people pursue cases around doxxing, misinformation and libel and slander on the internet.
The article chronicles how accountant Candice Bogar and two of her colleagues were harassed after being misidentified online as the woman who had spewed xenophobic vitriol at a Hatboro pizza shop owner last month.
Bogar’s son is considering legal action on behalf of his mother, the article says, but is unsure whether he would be taking individual posters or social platforms to task. “That distinction is the crux of two Supreme Court cases—Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh—that can determine who can be held liable for illegal or harmful content posted on the internet,” the article says.
It goes on to explain: “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act absolves tech companies from blame for harmful user-generated content posted to their platforms. It was written that way to help the internet blossom in its infancy but isn’t well-suited to govern a web reliant on algorithms.
“That practice could be heavily regulated if the Supreme Court rules against Big Tech during this session. In other words, if TikTok’s or Twitter’s algorithms promoted content found to defame or harass Bogar, the platforms could share blame with users.”
But Landers says that’s not likely to happen. “I don’t think the court is capable of obliterating Section 230 completely,” she said, because it’s not unconstitutional—just outdated, which isn’t a crime.
Besides, she explained, suing individual Tweeters or TikTokers is difficult enough.
Bogar and her son could sue for things such as defamation or intentional emotional distress, but “the problem with pursuing individual Tweeters is you often don’t know who they are” and if you do, they may not be reachable, Landers said.