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Orlando Nightclub Shooting Victims’ Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, and Google

Orlando Nightclub Shooting Victims’ Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, and Google

Complaint alleges “material support” to ISIS

The families of the Orlando nightclub shooting victims filed a federal complaint against the web giants for allegedly providing “material support” to ISIS and helping terrorist Omar Mateen “radicalize”, according to an exclusive report by Fox News.

Why not sue Mateen’s internet service provider? Or the manufacturer of the web-enabled devises he used to “radicalize” himself? This is akin to blaming the gun for the actions of the shooter.

From Fox News:

In a complaint filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, the families of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes and Juan Ramon Guerrero argue that the three web platforms “provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds, and attract new recruits.”

“Without Defendants 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 lawsuit states.

Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard who pledged allegiance to ISIS, opened fire inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub back in June; killing 49 people and wounding 53 others before being killed by a SWAT team to end the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“Life has not been easy for me or my whole family,” Juan Guerrero, the father of one of the victims, told “It is something I remember and have to live with every day.”

The complaint hinges on a clause from the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996:

At the heart of the lawsuit is the interpretation of a provision tucked deep inside the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 called Section 230.

The language of Section 230 states that “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.” In layman’s terms, this basically means that sites like Facebook or YouTube are not liable for what their users post on their sites.

“Section 230 is a free pass to online service providers as long as they act only as a pass-through,” Mark Bartholomew, a professor at the University Of Buffalo School Of Law, told “If you set up a place for people to talk, but don’t communicate on it yourself, then you are basically immune from prosecution.”

Section 230 of the CDA has protected social media sites in the past, but some lawyers and academics have begun to argue sites like Facebook may be violating the provision with their heavily-guarded algorithms. Despite these algorithms having come under fire before – from how Facebook curated its Trending Topics to accusations that YouTube was censoring people – this lawsuit alleges something much more nefarious behind one of the tech world’s most secretive processes.

Perhaps the point of the complaint is to spur national discussion on the role social media plays in terrorism recruiting and to what degree platforms are responsible for the actions of users. Any reason outside of those seems futile and ill-advised.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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The attorney who filed the complaint might consider reading FRCP Rule 11 (b) which reads,

“(b) Representations to the Court. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper—whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it—an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;”

Probably not too late to withdraw the complaint.

The COMPLAINT itself can generally be withdrawn at any time.

To not get SANCTIONED for attorneys fees and costs,it’s not too late to withdraw the complaint until one of the other parties, or the Court Sua Sponte, files a motion for sanctions AND the Judge holds a hearing on the motion for sanctions.

Once the hearing is held, somebody is getting money out of somebody else.


… THEN you’re stuck.

DieJustAsHappy | December 20, 2016 at 8:03 pm

I wonder. If it is demonstrated, and I think it can be, that these “web giants” do provide “material support” concerning other issues: in opposition to racism, sexist language, and conservative views to some degree, then how could they absolve themselves from not censuring terrorists exchanges?

    So more censorship is the answer? Not a good idea.

      DieJustAsHappy in reply to Bob00. | December 20, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      I’ll refer you to the comments by JOHN B and Archer. They more clearly state what I was trying to get at in my bumbling way. Not being an attorney I, nevertheless, think they bear some responsibility especially when they are moderating their sites for other matters.

      Milhouse in reply to Bob00. | December 21, 2016 at 12:50 am

      Giving material support to terrorists is already illegal, and the courts have consistently held that the fact that the support is in the form of speech doesn’t make it immune. So at least as far as the courts are concerned this is not censorship.

Normally I would agree but Facebook et al were not merely passive sites for people to use.

They policed their sites to get rid of dangerous right wing propaganda (meaning anything not pro-Clinton or pro-Obama). Meanwhile they kept on postings that encouraged killing of police and other atrocities. (For example, the man who murdered the 6 Texas policeman).

They were active in encouraging hate and violence so they should be sued.

Maybe the lawsuit goes after them the wrong way, but they have blood on their hands.

Normally I’d say that the Net Giants are immune under the CDA.


As soon as Facebook, Google, and Twitter started moderating trending topics, and especially when they started “verifying” known-terrorist ISIS accounts (while pointedly not verifying more conservative accounts), they are no longer passive providers. The case can be made that they are deliberately allowing and even promoting certain users’ accounts and content over others.

I’m not saying that the lawsuit has merit or that the families have standing to sue; that’s someone else’s decision (and I do not envy them). I do however believe they have a non-zero chance of succeeding. It’s unlikely, but not impossible.

In a socio-legal economy, they may settle to avoid a “black hole” controversy.

There is already an active lawsuit against Facebook, by Bob Tolchin and Nitzana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat Hadin, in preparation for which they spent months building up an extensive record of Facebook knowingly providing material support for terrorists. They have not just one but many cases where Facebook was specifically informed of Hamas and other terrorist content but no action was taken, while anti-Arab content was consistently taken down immediately after FB was notified of it. FB is unlikely to be able to wriggle out of that, but even if it somehow can there’s definitely no risk of Rule 11.

Here’s a video about the existing Facebook lawsuit. And here’s a link to the suit itself. Specifically see Factual Allegation IV, starting on page 44.

I suspect they are looking for “deep pockets”.

It’s very easy to find people on Facebook and Twitter making statements in support of these jihad terrorist attacks. (I’m talking very specific and explicit support for this violence.) It would be easy for these services to just remove these people, and it would help to clean up these online places. I’m sure that many of the people blocked would find ways to get back on to Facebook and Twitter, but their original accounts most likely use their primary e-mail addresses, so clear policies like this would at least hinder terrorist-supporters a bit.

However, probably Facebook and Twitter don’t have the resources for this because they’re too busy going after people who express Conservative ideas.