Victims of terrorism are suing Twitter and Facebook, trying to hold the social media sites responsible for providing a propaganda platform for terrorists. From the Associated Press:
“If you or I tried to send money to Hamas, you wouldn’t get around the block,” said Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the families of Brussels attack victims Alexander and Sascha Pinczowski and Paris massacre victim Nohemi Gonzalez. “Banks are required to check before they do any wire transfers. Why is it any different to provide a communications platform to Hamas, to ISIS?”
Relatives of those three victims filed a federal lawsuit against Twitter earlier this month, saying the San Francisco company violated the U.S. Anti-terrorism Act by providing material support to terrorists.
Facebook released a statement saying it, “condemns terrorist actions, prohibits terrorist content on Facebook, and swiftly removes any reported terrorist content.” Twitter put out a similar statement, “This type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service.” Twitter also noted that it has suspended more than 360,000 accounts in the last 18 months, most connected to ISIS.
As tempting as it is to pile on the social media sites, they should not be held legally responsible for the actions of terrorists any more than gun manufacturers should. Social media is a tool which can be used for good or ill. The Communications Decency Act specifically shields social media companies from being sued for material posted on their platforms.
Professor Eric Goldman of the Santa Clara University Law School tells the AP, “I’m confused why new lawsuits are continuing to be filed because I think these lawsuits are unmeritorious and it seems like the plaintiffs are not directing their ire toward the proper targets.” He adds, “Many social media companies have taken extra steps above and beyond the law to further reduce terrorist content.”