The Supreme Court has chosen not to hear a case involving a victim of sex trafficking who attempted to hold Reddit accountable for hosting images of child pornography on its platform.
This legal dispute is the latest in a series of challenges to a section of federal law that provides wide-ranging immunity to online platforms. In a separate case earlier this month, the Court ruled in favor of Google and Twitter, safeguarding their ability, under the same law—Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—to avoid lawsuits related to terrorist content.
Legal experts believe that the Court’s decision not to review the Reddit case, following its avoidance of making a significant ruling on tech company immunity in the Google case, indicates that the Court is reluctant to address Section 230 at this time. Instead, it seems that any potential changes to the law will be left to Congress.
The lawsuit involved a woman identified as “Jane Doe,” who was supported by parents of minors coerced into providing sexually explicit images that were subsequently posted on Reddit. Doe’s attorney argued that she was a minor when her then-boyfriend created multiple videos of them engaged in sexual activities, sometimes without her knowledge, and shared them online. Although she reported the content to Reddit, it took days for the platform to remove it, only to allow it to be reposted later.
The lawyer contended that Reddit “facilitates a thriving platform for child pornography and sex trafficking” and knowingly benefits from child sex trafficking by receiving and distributing child pornography.
Both a district court and a federal appeals court ruled that Section 230 shielded Reddit from such claims, as it grants the platform immunity. Reddit’s legal team argued in court documents that the site diligently works to identify and prevent the sharing of child pornography and has a content policy that strictly prohibits the sharing of any materials related to child sexual exploitation. They stated that Reddit provides all users with the ability to flag inappropriate content and regularly removes images that violate its policies.