Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Accusing Twitter Of Encouraging ISIS

Siding with Twitter, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing the company of enabling the growth of the terrorist group ISIS.

The lawsuit was brought by family members of Lloyd “Carl” Fields, Jr. and James Damon Creach, who were killed last year in Amman, Jordan. The shooter reportedly was a member of the terrorist group ISIS.

Fields' widow, along with Creach's widow and children. alleged that Twitter provided support to ISIS by allowing members to create accounts on the service.

Twitter countered that it wasn't responsible for crimes committed by users of the service. The company drew on the federal Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that broadly immunizes Web services providers from liability for users' crimes.

Backpage, Facebook, Craigslist and numerous other companies have relied on the Communications Decency Act to defeat separate lawsuits that sought to hold them responsible for activity by users.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in the Northern District of California agreed with Twitter's arguments. "In substance, plaintiffs aim to hold Twitter liable as a publisher or speaker of ISIS’s hateful rhetoric," Orrick wrote Friday in a 19-page decision dismissing the case. "Such liability is barred by the CDA."

Orrick also rejected arguments by the victims' families that Congress did not intend to promote online speech that could assist terrorists. Orrick noted in his opinion that requiring Twitter to ban ISIS supporters would obligate the company to revamp its operations.

"A policy holding Twitter liable for allowing ISIS to use its services would require it to institute new procedures and policies for screening and vetting accounts before they are opened; identify and suspend the accounts of users posting pro-ISIS content; and even identify and suspend the accounts of users promoting terrorism through the direct messaging feature," Orrick wrote. "These are not minor obligations, as they would require Twitter to fundamentally change certain aspects of its services."

Orrick's dismissal is "with prejudice," meaning that the families can't beef up their allegations and try again.

Although Twitter fought the lawsuit, the company has taken steps to attempt to combat terrorism. In August, Twitter said it had suspended more than 360,000 accounts for violating policies against promoting terrorism. "There is no one 'magic algorithm' for identifying terrorist content on the Internet," Twitter said in a blog post. "But we continue to utilize other forms of technology ... to supplement reports from our users and help identify repeat account abuse."

Twitter, Google and Facebook still face a separate lawsuit over allegations that they assist ISIS. That matter was brought by California resident Reynaldo Gonzalez, whose daughter, Nohemi Gonzalez, was killed in terrorist attacks last year in Paris. That case, which was filed in June, is pending in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in Oakland, California.


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