Court Absolves Twitter of Liability for Terrorists’ Tweets

By | August 15, 2016

Twitter Inc. won a court ruling that it can’t be held responsible for the so-called Islamic State’s use of the social network to spread propaganda that may have led to the death of an American in Amman, Jordan.

U.S. law protects Twitter from being treated as a publisher of any information provided by another content provider, a San Francisco federal judge ruled Wednesday. In this case, ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of a U.S. contractor by a gunman who may have received material by one of the terror group’s many Twitter handles.

President Barack Obama asked Silicon Valley firms last year to work with U.S. law enforcement authorities to prevent terrorists from using social media and encryption technologies. Although Twitter responded this year by suspending some 125,000 accounts linked to terror groups, the families of victims continue to file lawsuits against Twitter, Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. for allowing ISIS to raise funds and attract recruits.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco said at a June hearing that he wasn’t convinced that the mere action by Islamic State of opening accounts, “and not necessarily using them to recruit,” was a basis for claiming that Twitter violated the federal Anti-Terrorism Act. In Wednesday’s order, he called the link between Twitter and ISIS attacks “tenuous at best.”

The judge allowed the victim’s widow to revise the lawsuit to argue that Twitter is liable even though it doesn’t qualify as a publisher.

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


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