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UMSI professor files amicus brief for Gonzalez vs. Google Supreme Court case

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Monday, 01/23/2023

A Supreme Court case could alter algorithm recommendation systems on websites like YouTube, challenging a 1993 law. The law concerns section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability arising from user content. 

In an amicus brief filed by University of Michigan School of Information professor Paul Resnick and a group of distinguished information science scholars, the experts argue that websites should continue to be protected under this law. 

The case, Gonzalez v. Google, No. 21-1333, is set to be heard in the spring. Resnick’s early research on automated online recommendation systems continues to be influential. 

If the Supreme Court were to rule that algorithmically recommending items incurs the same liability as publishing those items, many service providers would radically alter or stop providing those services,” Resnick says. “Recommender systems, search engines, and spam filters all provide great value to consumers, so it would be a huge loss to society if they went away.” 

The lawsuit was filed by the family of a student killed in a November 2015 terrorist attack. The family argues that YouTube’s algorithm pushed ISIS recruitment videos and inspired the attack. 

“We filed this brief because we thought it would be valuable for the court to have a technical perspective on how recommender systems and search engines work now, and how they worked at the time of the legislation,” Resnick says. 


Learn more about UMSI professor and associate dean of information and innovation Paul Resnick through his UMSI faculty profile

Noor Hindi, public relations specialist.