Widow’s Damages Lawsuit Blames Twitter for Spread of ISIS

By and | January 14, 2016

Twitter Inc. was accused in a lawsuit by the widow of a man killed at a police training center in Jordan of knowingly allowing the Islamic State to spread its terrorist message through its service.

Twitter, like other social media sites, has been under increasing pressure to quickly remove posts by terrorist groups, including Islamic State, or ISIS. As fast as Twitter deletes such accounts, new ones typically spring up with the same propaganda messages, including video of attacks and beheadings.

Lloyd “Carl” Fields Jr. was killed with four others in a “lone wolf” attack at a police training center in Amman in November, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court. His widow, Tamara Fields of Cape Coral, Florida, said in her complaint that Twitter knowingly allows ISIS to use its platform.

“Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,” according to the complaint.

Fields accuses Twitter of providing material support to terrorism and seeks compensatory damages plus a ruling that Twitter is violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.

Twitter complied with 42 percent of the 1,003 global content removal requests received from January to June last year, according to the company’s biannual transparency report. Twenty-five of those requests came from the U.S. government and law enforcement agencies. Twitter said it didn’t comply with any of those requests.

“While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family’s terrible loss,” Twitter said in an e-mail. “Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear.”

Last week, the Obama administration announced the creation of a task force to help prevent extremist groups from using social media to radicalize and mobilize recruits. Twitter is one of the Internet companies that has been involved in a battle with the U.S. Justice Department over spy agency requests for user data.

Under federal law, Internet companies aren’t allowed to reveal anything about the subpoenas, except the number of them they receive in broad ranges.

The case is Fields v. Twitter Inc., 16-00213, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Topics Lawsuits USA

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