Facebook, Twitter, Google sued by Orlando shooting victims' families

Facebook, Twitter, Google sued by Orlando shooting victims' families

By Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY 9:19 a.m. EST December 20, 2016

Families of three Orlando shooting victims are suing these tech giants

The civil lawsuit claims Facebook, Twitter and Google allowed ISIS to use the social networks to spread extremist propaganda.

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook, Google and Twitter are being sued by the families of three victims slain in the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub for allegedly providing "material support" to the Islamic State.

The lawsuit, first reported by Fox News, was filed Monday in federal court in the eastern district of Michigan on behalf of the families of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes and Juan Ramon Guerrero.

The lawsuit is the latest to target popular Internet services for making it too easy for the Islamic State to spread its message. In June, the family of a California college student killed in  last year's terrorist attacks in Paris sued Facebook, Google and Twitter. Keith Altman, the attorney representing the three families in the Orlando nightclub lawsuit, also represents the family of that student, Nohemi Gonzalez, in the Paris terrorist attacks lawsuit.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, uses popular Internet services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube to spread propaganda, to attract and train new recruits, to celebrate terrorist attacks and publicize executions.

Earlier this month, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter said they would share a database of terror images and videos to more quickly remove terrorism content.

Omar Mateen opened fire inside Orlando's Pulse nightclub in June, killing 49 patrons and injuring 53 others in one of the deadliest shooting sprees in U.S. history. A 29-year-old security guard who pledged his allegiance to ISIS, Mateen was not a member of the terrorist group but had been inspired by it.

"Without Defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the lawsuit alleges.

Facebook declined to comment. Google and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

The biggest hurdle the lawsuit faces is a federal law that shields publishers from liability for the speech of others.

In an interview, Altman said Facebook, Google and Twitter should be held liable for what users post on their services because they pair content with advertising.

"They create unique content by combining ISIS postings with advertisements in a way that is specifically targeted at the viewer," the lawsuit alleges. "Defendants share revenue with ISIS for its content and profit from ISIS postings through advertising revenue."

Earlier this month, Altman revised his lawsuit on behalf of Gonzalez's family to allege there, too, that the companies created "original content."

"Although defendants have not created the posting, nor have they created the advertisement, defendants have created new unique content by choosing which advertisement to combine with the posting," the lawsuit contends.


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