The tech industry got some good news and bad news from the Supreme Court today. The good news was a ruling in favor of Google in its decade-long copyright battle with Oracle. Companies ranging from Microsoft to Etsy had warned that an Oracle victory would make life much harder for the entire industry, particularly software developers and startups. No doubt this decision cheered everyone in Silicon Valley but Oracle.
Then there’s the bad news. In a separate case today, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion suggesting that digital platforms—and he seemed to be thinking primarily of Facebook and Google—should be treated as “common carriers.” That’s a regulatory classification most typically applied to phone companies. He brought this up while discussing the control that “a few private parties” exercise over free speech on today’s digital platforms. Common carriers operate under a “requirement to serve all comers,” he noted. In other words, they couldn’t block particular people from their platforms, as Twitter and Facebook have done with Donald Trump and others.