Supreme Court Declines To Take Case Accusing Reddit Of Profiting From Child Sexual Abuse

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The Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling Tuesday that protects Reddit from liability for child pornography posted on its platform.

Child pornography victims sued Reddit in 2021 for turning “a blind eye” to child sexual abuse on its platform, arguing the company profits from child sexual abuse it knowingly allows to occur on its website in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The justices left in place the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on Tuesday, which held that Reddit could not be held liable for this content under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a law that shields internet companies from being held liable for the speech third-parties post on their platform.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Jane Does v. Reddit, Inc. tested a 2018 amendment to Section 230 that limited protections for companies who “knowingly assist[], support[], or facilitat[e]” the sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking. (RELATED: Supreme Court Shields Tech Companies From Liability For Terrorist Content)

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, on May 4, 2020, during the first day of oral arguments held by telephone, a first in the Court’s history, as a result of COVID-19, known as coronavirus. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The plaintiffs’ allegations only suggest Reddit turned “a blind eye” to unlawful content, not that it “actively participated in sex trafficking,” the court found.

“Moreover, the plaintiffs have not alleged a connection between the child pornography posted on Reddit and the revenue Reddit generates, other than the fact that Reddit makes money from advertising on all popular subreddits,” Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. wrote in the opinion.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs note that higher views leads to more advertiser interest, meaning more revenue for Reddit.

“By encouraging as much content to remain on Reddit as possible, turning a blind eye to subreddits that are obviously geared toward child pornography, and failing to train moderators to limit child pornography on Reddit, Reddit continues to focus on its number one goal: profit,” the plaintiffs argued.

The justices also recently sided with Twitter and Google in two cases charging them with “aiding and abetting” terrorism. In the case against Google, the Court “decline[d] to address” whether Section 230 shielded the company from liability for content promoted by its algorithm.

Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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