CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

Pulse Nightclub Shooting Victims Sue Google, Facebook, Twitter

Last June, Omar Mateen entered Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding another 53. During a 911 call, Mateen swore allegiance to the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL) and told officers he was motivated by the Iraq War and the U.S.'s campaign against ISIS.

This week, some of the victims' families filed a federal lawsuit against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, claiming the social media and tech giants "profit from ISIS postings through advertising revenue." You can see the full complaint below.

Enabling ISIS

According to the suit, filed by the families of Tevin Eugene Crosby, Juan Guerrero and Javier Jorge-Reyes, claims that "[w]ithout ... 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 complaint also alleges the tech companies grant ISIS "unfettered" ability to recruit fighters on social media.

The families are requesting a trial and unspecified damages.

Content Creators or Mere Conduits?

It's not the first time social media sites have been sued following a terrorist attack, and not the first time these particular companies have been accused of providing material support to terrorists. In past cases, companies have cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a bar to liability: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." As J.M. Berger, a fellow with the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, put it to the Washington Post, social media and tech companies generally can't be held liable for speech on their platforms "in the same way that a telephone company is not responsible if you use your phone to hire a contract killer."

The families' lawsuit is somewhat unique however, in that it contends that by pairing advertising with ISIS-related postings the sites are creating "specific unique content," which falls outside of Section 230 protections. You can read the full lawsuit below:

Earl Crosby, et al. v. Twitter, Google, and Facebook by FindLaw on Scribd