Feb 22, 2023

Hany Farid Explains Why the Internet Might Be In for a Major Overhaul for Scientific American

From Scientific American

Why Google’s Supreme Court Case Could Rattle the Internet

By Meghan Bartels 

We’ve all lost countless hours to online recommendation algorithms that suggest we might enjoy watching yet another cat video or following just one more influencer. But in mere months, social media platforms may need to find new ways to keep users engaged—and the Internet might be in for a major overhaul.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a case called Gonzalez v. Google, which questions whether tech giants can be held legally responsible for content promoted by their algorithms. The case targets a cornerstone of today’s Internet: Section 230, a statute that protects online platforms from liability for content produced by others. If the Supreme Court weakens the law, platforms may need to revise or eliminate the recommendation algorithms that govern their feeds. And if the Court scraps the law entirely, it will leave tech companies more vulnerable to lawsuits based on user content.

“If there are no protections for user-generated content, I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that this is probably the end of social media,” says Hany Farid, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. Social platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube, rely heavily on two things: content created by users and recommendation algorithms that promote the content most likely to capture other users’ attention and keep them on the platform as long as possible. The Court’s verdict could make either or both strategies more dangerous for tech companies...


Hany Farid is a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and EECS. His research focuses on digital forensics, forensic science, misinformation, image analysis, and human perception.

Last updated: March 2, 2023