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A US District Judge in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit against Twitter that claimed the social networking platform had provided “material support” to terrorists from ISIS.
An American woman whose husband was working as a contractor in Jordan filed the suit after her husband and several others were shot and killed by a terrorist who allegedly was inspired by extremist propaganda disseminated on Twitter.
The lawsuit, Fields v.
Twitter, claimed that Twitter violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by providing Twitter accounts to the terrorist group.
The plaintiffs did not allege that any specific tweets instigated the terrorist to kill the US contractors, nor did they allege that ISIS recruited or trained the terrorist over Twitter.
The plaintiffs did, however, say that the terrorist in question had been inspired by an execution publicized by ISIS, which crowd-sourced the method of execution on Twitter.
The plaintiffs also accused Twitter of failing to “detect and prevent” violent, terroristic tweets on its platform.
Twitter argued that is protected from liability as a publisher of content by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
In the judge’s Wednesday order granting Twitter’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, he called the plaintiffs’ attempts to connect the Jordan shooting with an action taken by Twitter “tenuous at best,” noting that the allegations from the plaintiffs don’t show “proximate causation between Twitter’s provision of accounts to ISIS and the deaths of Fields and Creach [the US contractors].”
“Nowhere in their opposition brief or [First Amended Complaint] do plaintiffs explain how Twitter’s mere provision of Twitter accounts to ISIS … proximately caused the November 2015 shooting,” the judge wrote.
To get around Twitter’s immunity from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the plaintiffs had also argued that Twitter was not just a publishing platform but also provided a Direct Messaging service that ISIS has used to privately recruit more terrorists.
The judge was unmoved by this argument as well, writing that communication hosted on a site need not be public for the Communications Decency Act to apply.
“Apart from the private nature of Direct Messaging, plaintiffs identify no other way in which their Direct Messaging theory seeks to treat Twitter as anything other than a publisher of information provided by another information content provider,” the judge wrote.