Google, Facebook And Twitter Prevail In Suit Over Pulse Nightclub Shootings

Siding with tech companies, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to hold Google, Twitter and Facebook responsible for a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The complaint, brought by victims and their families, "does not plead facts that plausibly support any viable claims against these defendants," U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson wrote in an opinion issued Friday.

The lawsuit stemmed from a June 2016 attack by Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured 53. Mateen claimed to be an "Islamic soldier" in phone calls he made to the police, but the CIA found no direct connection between Mateen and ISIS.

The victims alleged in their complaint that Mateen carried out the attacks after he "was radicalized by ISIS’ use of social media."

Lawson ruled that even if true, that allegation doesn't warrant further proceedings. "The allegations that Mateen viewed some literature and videos produced by ISIS is not sufficient to sustain any inference that either the defendants, or ISIS, or any individual or entity directly associated with ISIS, had any discernible direct involvement in the Orlando attack," he ruled.

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Lawson added that there was nothing to suggest that the tech companies encouraged or assisted Mateen.

"The plaintiffs contend that by allowing ISIS to post proselytizing videos on their sites, and by deriving revenue from targeted advertising on those sites, the defendants have engaged in conduct subjecting them to liability for Mateen’s terrorist act," Lawson write.

He added that even though banks "occasionally have been found liable" for aiding terrorists, "there is not a single case in which social media providers have been held responsible."

The decision comes several months after a federal appellate court threw out a similar lawsuit against Twitter. In that case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that family members of two people killed in a terrorist shooting in Amman, Jordan couldn't proceed with claims against Twitter. The judges ruled that the complaint didn't show a "direct relationship" between the service's acts and the shooting.

Twitter, Facebook and Google still face other lawsuits alleging that they facilitate terrorism, but some legal experts expect those cases to also be dismissed.

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