U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

9th Rejects Terror Case Against Twitter

Lloyd Fields and James Creach were training police in Jordan when a local officer started shooting at them.

The Americans were in the country to teach basic police skills, but they died that day in 2015. The Islamic State, a terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Back in the United States, the families of the slain men sued Twitter for supporting ISIS by allowing the group to use Twitter accounts. In Fields v. Twitter Inc., a federal appeals court said the plaintiffs didn't show a connection to their deaths.

No Proximate Cause

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said there was no proximate cause between Twitter's acts and the attack on Fields and Creach. The unanimous panel upheld a decision by a trial judge, who had granted a motion to dismiss.

The plaintiffs had sued under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which provides civil remedies for injuries caused "by reason of" acts in support of terrorism. They said ISIS used Twitter to spread terrorist propaganda and to recruit others.

The families argued that the ISIS Twitter accounts were a "substantial factor" in the deaths and that the company should have anticipated the attack. They alleged Twitter knew about the accounts, but did not stop them.

However, the appeals court said to satisfy ATA's "by reason of" requirement a plaintiff must show "at least some direct relationship between the injuries that he or she suffered and the defendant's acts." It is not enough to that the injuries were foreseeable, the panel said.

"Holding Enablers Accountable"

Joshua Arisohn, a lawyer for the families, said his clients are considering an appeal. "Requiring a more direct connection between the provision of material support to terrorists and the attacks that they carry out contravenes the central purpose of the Anti-Terrorism Act: holding enablers of terrorists accountable," he told Reuters.

Fields and Creach had traveled to Jordan in June 2015 as contractors to train law enforcement personnel. On Nov. 9, a 28-year old police captain entered the training facility and opened fire.

Anwar Abu Zaid killed six people and wounded others before he, too, was shot and killed. Investigators determined he was part of a terror cell associated with ISIS.

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