Summary: The families of the Orlando Shooter’s victims want Google, Twitter, and Facebook to be held accountable for the killer’s crime.
In June, a 29-year-old gunman entered the gay club Pulse in Orlando, Florida and went on one of the biggest mass shooting sprees in the United States. Omar Mir Seddique Mateen killed nearly 50 people and wounded almost 50 others before he was killed in a shootout with local police. Mateen was an Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizer who radicalized himself online, and now the families of the victims want the internet juggernauts to pay for his crime.
The families are suing Google, Twitter, and Facebook; and they claim that those companies aided in Mateen’s radicalization. They state that those tech companies help ISIS, whose mission appeared to influence Mateen’s decision to attack the club. They said that those platforms provide regular citizens with access to terrorist viewpoints.
“Without … Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit also claims that the internet companies profit from ISIS-related content through ad revenue.
The families of victims Tevin Eugene Crosby, Juan Guerrero and Javier Jorge-Reyes are seeking a trial and unspecified financial damages. The lawsuit was filed in Michigan federal court on Monday.
A similar case was filed against Google, Twitter, and Facebook after the 2015 Paris attacks, which were also orchestrated by ISIS assailants. Plaintiffs claimed that those internet companies provided a platform for ISIS, but a judge ruled that Twitter was not liable as it was only a conduit for free speech. The cases against Google and Facebook in that matter are still pending.
According to The Washington Post, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects “online intermediaries that host or republish speech … against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do.” This has resulted in sites such as Yelp, Amazon, and Craigslist to flourish without worry of repercussions of what their users write. As long as the companies have a content policy and act when complaints are filed, then they are in compliance with the Decency Act.
Facebook has already released a statement that they do not permit content from terrorist organizations and that they are serious about maintaining standards on their site.
Keith Altman of Excolo Law represents the families of the Orlando victims. He told the Washington Post that their lawsuit was unique because the defendants merged content with advertising, which did not protect them under the Communications Decency Act.
“While they didn’t create the ad, and they didn’t create the posting, by putting those things together, they created specific unique content,” Altman said.
Despite this new approach, experts predict that this case will be dismissed based on precedent. J.M. Berger, a fellow with the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, told The Washington Post that it was very unlikely this case would succeed under current laws. Courts have traditionally not held platforms liable for its users’ content, no matter how obscene.
“[It’s] in the same way that a telephone company is not responsible if you use your phone to hire a contract killer,” Berger said.
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Source: The Washington Post
Photo courtesy of CNN
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