Tech Companies Defeat Lawsuit Over Istanbul Bombing

Siding with tech platforms, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to hold Twitter, Google and Facebook responsible for a terrorist attack in Turkey.

The decision, issued Monday by U.S. District Court Judged Edward Chen in the Northern District of California, is the latest in a series of court decisions siding with tech companies in lawsuits over terrorist attacks. The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed last year by the family of Nawras Alassaf, a Jordanian citizen who was killed in the January 2017 bombing of the Reina nightclub in Istanbul.

The family members alleged that Twitter, Google and Facebook enabled that the Web platforms enable ISIS to recruit new members and promote terrorism. The family added that the killer, Abdulkadir Masharipov, was radicalized by social media.

The lawsuit claimed the tech companies violated the federal Anti-Terrorism Act, which prohibits anyone from knowingly providing material support to terrorists. That law contains a provision that allows anyone injured by violations to sue in federal court.

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Chen rejected that theory, writing that the allegations, even if true, wouldn't prove the platforms caused the bombing.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that Mr. Masharipov ever saw any specific content on social media related to ISIS. Nor are there even any factual allegations that Mr. Masharipov maintained a Facebook, YouTube, and/or Twitter account,” Chen wrote.

He added that complaint also alleged that Masharipov trained with al-Qaeda in 2011 -- suggesting that he could have been radicalized through other sources.

“Plaintiffs fail to allege any clear or direct linkage between Defendants’ platforms and the Reina attack,” he wrote.

All three companies have prevailed in similar battles in trial courts in New York and California. Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Twitter in the first appellate decision on questions of tech companies' responsibility for terrorist attacks. That mater stemmed from a lawsuit brought by family members of Lloyd “Carl” Fields, Jr. and James Damon Creach, who were killed in a November 2015 terrorist shooting in Amman, Jordan. 

The families had alleged Twitter provided support to ISIS by allowing members to create accounts on the service. But the appellate judges said the complaint didn't show a direct relationship between Twitter and the shooting.

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