Crime & Justice

A family vs. Google at Supreme Court: We’re not afraid

Washington, Feb 21 (EFE).- Gonzalez vs. Google LLC. The name of the case reviewed by the US Supreme Court on Tuesday pits the family of a young woman murdered by the Islamic State against the behemothic Internet platform, a case in which the girl’s mother and stepfather said they’re not afraid and feel “confident” about the outcome.

“We feel confident after listening to all the arguments. We just hope that this (will) change the laws and it’ll be for the good,” said Jose Hernandez, the stepfather of Nohemi Gonzalez, the only American killed in the 2015 Paris terrorist attack.

“So other families don’t have the pain that we’re feeling,” he added after he and his wife Beatriz Gonzalez emerged from the oral hearing before the high court in Washington.

Their daughter was murdered in November 2015 in a terrorist attack perpetrated by the Islamic State in the French capital, an attack that killed a total of 130 people.

The lawsuit holds Google liable for Nohemi’s death, arguing that via YouTube the IS was able to post videos that launched the violence and urged people to join the terrorist group, with Google steering viewers to videos made by jihadists, identifying potential interested viewers according to a Google algorithm.

The case examines for the first time the limits to which online platforms can be held responsible for the recommendations their algorithms make for people to view material posted by third parties and ultimately could change the current configuration of the Internet.

But the plaintiffs are not afraid of going up against the tech mega-giant, with Hernandez telling reporters that if he and his wife would have thought about being afraid they would never have pursued the case because they know that this could change the social networks, adding that Nohemi will be the catalyst for big changes in platform algorithms.

Nohemi had traveled to Paris to study there but was killed in the attack on the La Belle Equipe restaurant.

Beatriz, who is of Mexican origin, said that she remembers her daughter with a lot of pride, adding that she was an independent, self-sufficient young woman of 23 and asserting that “it wasn’t fair” that her life was taken.

She said that a change is needed because “information moves so easily” on the social networks, noting that it’s very easy to form groups and share information and asserting that things need to be more strictly monitored, not only to prevent terrorist incidents but also all sorts of other criminal activities, a sentiment with which Hernandez agreed.

The decision of the high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, will not be made known for several months, but the couple is hopeful that when that ruling is handed down it will be “something good.”

Hernandez said that they are hoping that the ruling will “change everything,” noting that they pursued the case so that the Supreme Court will render justice from the sadness they are feeling.

“It’s a very important case,” he said.

In the plaintiffs’ sights is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is known in the tech world as the “26 words that created the modern Internet.”

Section 230 shields online platforms from liability for harm stemming from content posted by individuals, no matter how discriminatory, defamatory or dangerous that content might be.

However, a key issue that is still up in the air is how much liability companies may have if they can be found guilty of enabling or abetting terrorists or other criminals in perpetrating unlawful activity.

EFE mgr/pamp/enb/bp

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