Supreme Court Declines to Take up Reddit Child Porn Case

May 30, 2023


The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a bid by victims of child pornography seeking to hold Reddit responsible for the content on its site.

In the unsigned order, the nine Justices rejected a request from unnamed victims and their parents, instead remanding their various complaints to several U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals “for further consideration.”

Internet companies like Reddit enjoy protections surrounding third-party content under a shield law known as Section 230, first enacted in 1996.

In a pair of cases earlier this month in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Twitter and Google, blocking two lawsuits under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Justices “decline[d] to address the application of Section 230 to a complaint that appears to state little, if any, plausible claim for relief.” Doing so left unresolved the question of how far Section 230’s protections reach. 

The Reddit case involved a carveout to those protections that was passed by Congress in 2018, which makes it easier to take legal action against websites accused of enabling sex trafficking. The carveout allows plaintiffs to bring a suit against an internet company if the “underlying” conduct would amount to the federal sex-trafficking crime. 

In the case of Reddit, which is an aggregation of social content, at issue was who committed the underlying conduct. Was it solely the website or did the action extend to third parties? A lower court had adopted the narrower version, leading to the Supreme Court appeal. 

The plaintiffs asserted that liability should extend to Reddit and other internet companies that “knowingly benefit” from “participation in a venture” with a third party that committed sex trafficking. 

But Reddit countered that the Ninth Circuit, “the first and only court of appeals to address the question presented,” did not conflict with any of the Supreme Court’s filings or those of “any other circuit.” 

“This case is also a poor vehicle to resolve the question presented because petitioners have not alleged sex trafficking as required by the statute they invoke,” Reddit’s filing added.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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