Twitter Urges Court To Reject Bid To Revive Lawsuit Over ISIS Attack

Family members of people killed in an attack in Jordan shouldn't be able to proceed with a lawsuit accusing Twitter of encouraging terrorism, the microblogging service argues in papers filed with a federal appellate court.

Twitter is urging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reject arguments by the widows of Lloyd “Carl” Fields, Jr. and James Damon Creach, who are seeking to revive a lawsuit against the company. They alleged in a 2016 lawsuit that Twitter supported ISIS by allowing members of the terrorist group to create accounts on the service.

Fields and Creach were killed in a November 2015, after they were shot by Jordanian police captain Anwar Abu Zaid.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit last year, ruling that the Communications Decency Act protects Twitter from liability based on users' activity. The family members are now appealing that ruling to the 9th Circuit.

Twitter is asking the 9th Circuit to uphold Orrick's dismissal order.

"Twitter deeply sympathizes with plaintiffs for their losses and is committed to combatting the spread of terrorist content online. But Twitter is not liable for Abu Zaid’s appalling attack," the company says in papers filed last week.

Twitter argues that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act broadly immunizes Web platforms from liability for users' crimes. The company adds that Congress's decision to provide that kind of broad immunity served to encourage companies to offer interactive platforms.

"Because imposing civil liability on service providers for disseminating harmful third-party content would dramatically chill online expression, Congress enacted Section 230 'to encourage the unfettered and unregulated development of free speech on the Internet,'" the company writes, quoting from an earlier ruling about the law.

The company also points out that numerous other Web services providers have prevailed in lawsuits by crime victims. Most recently, last month a judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit against Facebook brought by family members of terrorist attack victims.

Twitter also says the victims' families can't show that its alleged failure to block ISIS members caused the terrorist attack. "Countless intervening acts and actors separate Twitter’s supposedly unlawful conduct -- allegedly failing to block members and sympathizers of ISIS from using Twitter’s platform -- from Abu Zaid’s heinous crimes," the company writes.

Family members of Fields and Creach aren't the only ones suing Twitter over allegations that it assists ISIS. Twitter -- along with Google and Facebook -- also faces a separate lawsuit brought by family members of three people killed in terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. That matter is pending in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in Oakland, California.

The three companies also were sued last month by family members of three people killed by a terrorist in San Bernardino, California.


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