Twitter, Facebook targeted by more Pulse shooting victims

Twitter, Facebook targeted by more Pulse shooting victims

Families of three Pulse nightclub victims are suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google, alleging that the companies did not do enough to stop the so-called Islamic State to post propaganda and push its agenda.

By Paul Brinkman April 4, 2017

Ten new plaintiffs have joined a federal lawsuit that targets Twitter, Google, and Facebook with allegations that ISIS used social media to radicalize the Pulse nightclub gunman.

The lawsuit is the second in recent weeks where more than a dozen Pulse victims or their families are now suing over the tragedy. The other big lawsuit is directed at the G4S security firm, where the shooter worked as a security guard, and his wife.

One of the new plaintiffs in the social media case is Christine Leinonen, mother of deceased victim Christopher “Drew” Leinonen. She has been one of the most visible activists among the Pulse victims’ families, appearing at the Democratic National Convention during the presidential campaign to speak about curbing gun violence.

“I think this is one lawsuit that may actually work, so that we could prevent some future tragedies. It’s not going to eliminate them altogether because the [expletive] that want to distribute this kind of carnage can still meet in a coffeehouse or a cave or wherever,” Leinonen said. “They are taking men who might be slightly angry because they’re not getting along with their boss or their wife, and they’re making monsters out of them.”

Money from the lawsuit would be put into her son’s foundation, called The Dru Project, to help start up and support gay-straight alliances in schools.

She said the lawsuit is not about money.

“Even if the damages are minimal, that’s irrelevant. I have the opportunity to eradicate future evil. That would promote my son’s honor, his name, his legacy,” Leinonen said.

The lawsuit seeks a judge’s order declaring the social media companies to have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by allowing ISIS sympathizers to use their services. The act defines terrorism as acts dangerous to human life, which appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, among other things, and provides for penalties against anyone aiding terrorists.

Twitter, Google and Facebook have fought back in court, filing a motion to dismiss the case already.

The social media lawsuit was first filed in December by family members controlling estates of three deceased victims, by the Michigan-based firm 1-800-Law-Firm. Ten more joined the suit last week, according to a new amended complaint.

The social media suit alleges that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was radicalized by ISIS’s use of social media websites to conduct terrorist operations. However, the companies have argued that the suit alleges no facts indicating that the Orlando attack “was in any way impacted, helped by, or the result of ISIS’s presence on the social networks.”

Mateen opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub south of downtown Orlando, about 2 a.m. on June 12, killing 49 people and injuring at least 68 others.

Besides Leinonen, the new plaintiffs are family or estate representatives of deceased victims including: Lydia Perez and family members of the late Jean Carlos Mendez Perez; Carlos Sanfeliz and Maria Sanfeliz-Mendoza, family of the late Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz; Jose Luis Vielma, family of the late Luis Sergio Vielma; Jackson J. Josaphat, family of the late Jason B. Josaphat; Stanley Almodovar, family of the late Stanley Almodovar III.

Four of the new plaintiffs are Pulse victims who recovered: Chris Littlestar, Nicholaz Perez, Asael Abad and Jillian Amador.

The lawsuit cites numerous media accounts of investigations into the shooting by the FBI and by a Congressional committee.

Although the suit says the FBI believes Mateen was radicalized by viewing online material, including videos, the suit doesn’t have any specific examples of Mateen viewing ISIS material. The only direct reference in the lawsuit to Mateen using social media is about him going on Facebook during the shooting itself to find reaction.

Another lawsuit filed by victims’ families, filed targets the G4S security firm, where the shooter worked as a security guard, and his wife.

Copyright © 2017, Orlando Sentinel


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