Lawsuit Claims Social Media Sites Provided Pulse Nightclub Shooter with 'Material Support'

Three families of Pulse nightclub victims filed a lawsuit Monday claiming Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.
December 20, 2016, 8:19pm
Photo via Flickr user Walter

The families of three men who lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub shooting back in September have filed a lawsuit against Twitter, Google's parent company Alphabet, and Facebook claiming that the tech giants helped disseminate information that inspired Omar Mateen to commit the worst mass shooting in US history, Reuters reports.

The lawsuit was filed in Detroit on Monday by Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes, and Juan Ramon Guerrero's families, and claims that the social media companies had a hand in providing "ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, and attract new recruits." The lawsuit seeks damages from the companies and argues that they have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

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

Social media sites like Youtube and Twitter have been instrumental recruiting tools for ISIS, which uses the platforms as a place to spread propaganda. Twitter announced in August that it had suspended nearly 360,000 accounts for violating its policies and promoting terrorism, and earlier this month Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Twitter announced they would be working together to remove terrorism content, USA Today reports.

The suit faces an uphill battle because large tech companies are protected by a clause in the federal Communications Decency Act, which says they are not responsible for content that's posted by users.

Although Twitter and Google haven't commented yet, Facebook released a statement on Tuesday assuring the public that it takes terrorism content on its site very seriously.

"We take swift action to remove this content when it's reported to us," Facebook said. "We sympathize with the victims and their families."