Pulse Nightclub Victim’s Families Sue Twitter, Google and Facebook
On Monday the families of three men killed at Pulse nightclub filed a lawsuit against Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc. The families believe the companies provided “material support” to the self-radicalized gunman.
In June 2016 the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group before being fatally shot by police after the attack.
The families of Tevin Crosby, Jabier Jorge-Reyes and Juan Ramon Guerro filed the lawsuit in Detroit federal court. They claim Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Facebook “provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds and attract new recruits,” said Reuters.
This isn’t the first lawsuit of it’s kind though and in the past these type of lawsuits faced an uphill fight due to strong protections in U.S. federal law for the technology industry.
In the suit the families said the “material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out, numerous terrorist attacks.”
So far Facebook has been the only one to respond to the lawsuit. On Tuesday the company said there is no area for groups that engage in or support terrorism on its service and that the company takes quick action to removing content when it is reported.
“We are committed to providing a service where people feel safe when using Facebook,” it said in a statement obtained by Reuters.. “We sympathize with the victims and their families.”
In August Twitter suspended 360,000 accounts since mid-2015 for violating policies in promoting terrorism. Twitter has declined to comment on this current lawsuit though.
Reuters said they have yet to reach any representatives from Google.
In the U.S. technology companies are protected from majority of lawsuit under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. The Act says website operators are not liable for content that is posted by others.
The lawsuit says that companies combine ISIS postings with advertisements to target certain viewers. They took it further saying that the companies share revenues with ISIS for the content and profit from theses combinations.
The families are seeking damages and for the court to rule that the websites have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act in the United States.