In a case with the potential to alter the very structure of the internet, the Supreme Court did not appear ready on Tuesday to limit a law that protects social media platforms from lawsuits over their users’ posts.
In the course of a sprawling argument lasting almost three hours, the justices seemed to view the positions taken by the two sides as too extreme, giving them a choice between exposing search engines and Twitter shares to liability on the one hand and protecting algorithms that promote pro-ISIS content on the other.
At the same time, they expressed doubts about their own competence to find a middle ground.
“You know, these are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet,” Justice Elena Kagan said of the Supreme Court, to laughter.
Others had practical concerns. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, echoing comments made in briefs, worried that a decision imposing limits on the shield “would really crash the digital economy with all sorts of effects on workers and consumers, retirement plans and what have you.”
Drawing lines in this area, he said, was a job for Congress. “We are not equipped to account for that,” he said.