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EU leaves Apple in a tangle amid fight for USB-C standardization

Yahoo Finance Tech Editor Dan Howley breaks down the EU's vote on mandating a common charging port plus how the Supreme Court's case on Section 230 could affect internet companies.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The Supreme Court is set to hear a case against Google that addresses the issue of Section 30. It's a part of the Communications Act that provides immunity to online platforms publishing third party content. Beyond the unassuming name, its decision could affect how freedom of expression is handled on the internet.

For more, let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley. Dan, it feels like it's a long time coming. We've talked about changes to Section 230 for so long, at least on the legislative side of things. What's the expectation here with the Supreme Court now agreeing to take up the case?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, it's interesting, Akiko. And you're right. We've heard ad nauseam kind of lawmakers talking about how they wanted to change Section 230, and nothing really ever comes of it. So this case has to do with Google, and YouTube specifically, and a lawsuit that the families of a victim of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack have filed against YouTube, basically saying that the algorithmically driven recommendations that YouTube makes are not covered by Section 230. And those videos kind of helped to radicalize some of the folks or terrorists that perpetrated that attack.

And so this kind of goes to the heart of Section 230, but also is taking a different angle. So Section 230 provides a liability shield in instances where large internet companies post third party content. And it allows them to moderate that content under good faith. And so this has to do with those specific algorithmically generated recommendations, not the content that's hosted.

But the catch here is that those recommendations are still hosted on the platform. So it's kind of a weird issue that they're going to be discussing. And the case has been kind of dismissed in the ninth US Circuit Court. And it's an issue that if Section 230 is kind of cast aside entirely, the internet will change entirely. It's the reason why we have sites like Facebook, Yelp, Google. Yahoo Finance has a comment section. It's the reason why we have that-- Reddit.

All of these sites would likely cease to exist because companies would no longer be able to shield themselves from the kind of lawsuits that are filed based on the kind of content that their own users post. So without 230, they wouldn't be able to do that. They also wouldn't be able to moderate content. So it would either be, they take all content, or they take no content. And most of them would probably err on the side of no content.

So this is a really big issue. The court-- you know, Clarence Thomas has previously said that 230 needs to be revisited. And so you already have someone there who wants it to be changed, at least to some degree. To what extent, we're not sure. But this could really be a huge change for the internet.

AKIKO FUJITA: One other story, Dan, I know you're watching closely, this happening over in the EU, requiring all smartphones to have the same charging ports. We're talking about USB-C. I know a lot of consumers are saying, finally, I don't have to carry around four different things. But what does this mean for a company like Apple now that they're going to have to make those changes?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, look, that was the reason for USB-C to begin with. It's why it's universal. You can literally take your charger from your laptop and plug it into your USB-C smartphone or use that same cable to connect to your PlayStation 5. These are-- it was meant to be universal.

And so Apple has been making changes. If you look at the side of the MacBooks, they have USB-C ports. IPads, excuse me-- are powered by USB-C ports. It's the iPhone, and it's the AirPods and older devices that still use Lightning. So Apple's going to have to make changes by 2024 to ensure that in the EU, those devices are USB-C capable and can be connected to those kinds of chargers.

The idea is then it would help eliminate, or at least, lower the amount of pollution caused by these kind of tech products that you end up throwing out because you have too many chargers, or this charger doesn't work anymore. You know, it is a way to kind of cut down on that.

The question, though, then comes up-- what happens when they have a better connectivity solution? What happens when there's something that is faster or charges better that isn't USB-C? So we'll have to wait to see how that comes. But for now, it looks like Apple is going to have to change to USB-C. And that means here in the US, we'll likely get that as well because it just wouldn't make sense for them to be making different iPhones with different charging ports in two major markets.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it feels like it's about time to make that transition. A story we'll continue to watch. Dan, thanks so much for that.