Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as it pertains to tech behemoths, has become a political and cultural football. For reference, this section is a clause in the 1996 Communications Decency Act shielding website owners from certain legal liability.
The motivation to repeal this statute has drastically increased in recent years. This is likely in response to big tech’s outsized influence on society and the perceived responsibility that accompanies it.
Meta and Facebook have reliably cited Section 230 in a variety of matters in the last two decades. Once again, they argue that it should be the basis for dismissing recent lawsuits. Lawsuits which accuse them of distributing and profiting from “addictive” gambling apps.
It will be interesting to see how this issue develops. Could the outcome and concern influence those states like GA battling to legalize sports betting? Concerns around the dangers of gambling addiction give a reason for GA religious groups to fight against legalization.
However, there are those helping to bridge the gap between religious conservatives and sports betting enthusiasts, such as Charlie Blackmon. Many of us are hope Georgia lawmakers follow Blackmon’s lead and point to him as a way to appease the aforementioned concerns.
Tech giants use Section 230 as a shield in lawsuits
Per Digital News Daily, both tech giants — joined by Google — are seeking swift dismissal of a bevy of class-action lawsuits.
Said lawsuits are brought by plaintiffs accusing them of contributing to personal monetary losses by hosting “addictive” gambling games and apps on their platforms. The plaintiffs allege that by hosting these apps and games, Apple, Meta, and Google are responsible for the losses incurred.
They’re seeking damages and restitution.
The trio of tech companies flatly denies these claims, stating their protection under the language of Section 230. They argue that this section immunizes them from any legal action based on third–party content hosted on their platforms.
It’s the legal acrobatics of suing your buddy for introducing you to someone who hosts a weekly poker night, and you just so happen to be terrible at cards.
The plaintiff’s complaint filing also alleges that tech companies are promoting illegal gambling. They highlight permitted gambling apps in their stores/sites, and profits made off of in-app purchases for virtual currency. The filed complaint specifically states:
In exchange for promoting and distributing … casino games, providing them valuable data and insight about their players, and collecting money from consumers, Google (and the other platforms) take a 30 percent commission off of every wager, earning them billions in revenue.
Section 230: A hot-button issue in online gambling
Section 230 is in the news because its application in a world driven by social media is worthy of debate.
Should content hosts shoulder some responsibility for the content permitted on their platforms? It’s a worthy question, but class-action lawsuits against the likes of Meta, Apple, and Google citing monetary loss due to gambling or in-app purchases set a potentially dangerous precedent.
With sports gambling’s legalization becoming a reality throughout the United States, digital sportsbooks have naturally become commonplace in app stores. Folks want the ability to place a bet at a moment’s notice, making the app-based marketplace one full of potential for legal gambling outlets.
Should the plaintiffs prove successful in their class-action lawsuits and garner damages and restitution due to “addictive” gambling games, it could form the basis of future legal precedent. One that impacts the legal gambling community as a whole.
Hence why tech companies seek to have the suits tossed outright, and why they’re utilizing Section 230 to accomplish that.
The legal gray area ahead
Regardless of the outcome of moves for dismissal, it likely won’t be the end to lawsuits of this kind. While legal gambling remains a state-by-state issue, there are going to be enough gray areas for legal complaints to move forward.
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