Court of Justice

How the US Supreme Court’s Recent Judgments on Abortion and Gun Control Make Privacy Protection and Content Moderation Policies Even More Relevant

Two Supreme Court decisions have further divided American society. The Court just significantly strengthened Americans’ right to keep and bear guns. It concluded 6-3, with Republican-appointed justices in the majority, that a New York statute restricting the ability to carry a concealed firearm in public violated the Constitution. This judgment, while extremely important, could not even be digested due to the striking—yet previously leaked—Supreme Court decision that maintained Mississippi abortion restrictions and repealed the constitutional right to abortion established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. Due to these two decisions, both privacy protection and content moderation policies will be more relevant than ever in the US.

Nowadays, millions of women rely on services like Flo, Clue, and Apple’s Health app to help them become pregnant, avoid pregnancy, or determine when their next period is due. The court’s decision on abortion laws drew additional attention to these services because they save sensitive data that could be used against its users—especially in jurisdictions where abortion may be criminalized. In response to the Supreme Court’s verdict, developers of period trackers and fertility apps started working on ways to anonymize user records. It is thus likely that privacy will become a critical product attribute that will lead developers to offer high protection standards. However, not monetizing user data comes at a cost, in terms of lost revenue, that is passed onto the consumers as a fee. If there is market segmentation with paid and private apps and “free” with lower privacy standards, this will be another way how the Supreme Court decision will have a disproportionate effect on low-income people. It is well-known there is no federal privacy law in the US, but even the state laws that many consider as models are based on unrealistic expectations about the users’ engagement with their rights.[1] Either for the lack of technical knowledge, time, or interest, people are not effective defenders of their own privacy. This niche may well serve as a good example to have in mind when designing more effective privacy laws.

While Europe discusses the most innovative regulations of privacy, technology, and the digital economy, the US Supreme Court just made it harder for US states to restrict gun ownership. This was by overturning a New York rule that required people to demonstrate good cause to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon in public. Justice Clarence Thomas argued for the majority that the right to carry a gun for self-defense is not a “second-class right” and that he knew of no other fundamental right that a person may enjoy only after demonstrating to government officials some unique need. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have similar legislation to New York. These laws are expected to be challenged immediately. However, law enforcers have claimed that this decision will make their jobs harder and may help become New York in the “Wild East.”

The Supreme Court decision comes after a terrible wave of mass shootings. And there is evidence that the perpetrators of those crimes were at least partially influenced by misinformation and radical content they found online. Relatedly, scholarly work has demonstrated the influence of media coverage on violent behavior; and how media coverage helps create stereotypes and expectations that may induce more people to engage in criminal activity.[2] These are critical points to have in mind when discussing content moderation, which looms essential to avoiding the escalation of violence in a deeply polarized society.

[1] See, for instance: Vásquez Duque, Omar and Vásquez Duque, Omar, Cookies and the Illusion of Informed Consent: The Framing of the Decision Environment as Digital Manipulation (November 5, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

[2] James N. Meindl and Jonathan W. Ivy. Mass Shootings: The Role of the Media in Promoting Generalized Imitation. 2017. American Journal of Public Health 107, 368_370,