LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Twitter is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims it failed to block or remove content the Islamic State group and its affiliates allegedly posted on its platform.
Lawyers for the global Internet platform filed the motion last Thursday in California federal court seeking an end to the suit by Tamara Fields.
The suit by Fields claims Twitter “knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use its social network as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.”
“This material support,” the suit alleges, “has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out numerous terrorist attacks.” The suit was filed in January.
Fields is the widow of Lloyd “Carl” Fields, Jr., a government contractor killed in a terrorist attack in Amman, Jordan, in November.
Fields’ husband had been sent to the region to work at a police training center and was among two Americans killed in the attack that claimed three other lives.
The alleged perpetrator of the attack identified in the complaint as Anwar Abu Zaid was killed by security forces. But, according to the complaint, which cited a statement issued through al-Battar Media Foundation, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack it described as a “lone wolf.”
The suit alleges in part that Twitter violated a federal antiterrorism statute, which prohibits “provid[ing] material support or resources … knowing or intending that they are to be used in the preparation for, or in carrying out” of terrorist type offenses.
“The services and support that Defendant purposefully, knowingly or with willful blindness provided to ISIS constitute material support to the preparation and carrying out of acts of international terrorism, including the attack in which Lloyd Fields Jr. was killed,” the suit claims.
“The senseless violence of Abu Zaid’s shooting spree has been explained as an act of a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” countered Twitter in its motion. “But even accepting this explanation, there is no basis in law or fact for holding Twitter liable for that heinous crime.”
Twitter argued that it is immune from liability under federal law, pointing to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, commonly known as Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which it argues “broadly immunizes online intermediaries from liability for harms allegedly resulting from third-party content.”
The social media giant also argues that Fields’ complaint failed to state facts that would establish that it was the proximate cause her husband’s death, nor state facts to establish that Twitter committed an “act of international terrorism” as defined under the anti-terrorism statute.
“The complaint does not allege any direct connection between Twitter and either Abu Zaid or the attack on the police compound in Jordan that killed Mr. Fields,” Twitter said. “Nor does it allege that Twitter itself created any of the tweets, messages or other content that the complaint strains to link, even indirectly, to that attack.”
“Instead, the complaint seeks to hold Twitter responsible on the ground that Twitter’s ubiquitously available online communications platform, which has hundreds of millions of users worldwide, allegedly was used by other terrorists (though not Abu Zaid) to transmit information promoting their views or activities,” wrote Twitter.
In an unrelated case, Larry Klayman, an activist, sued Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, in 2011 over allegations the social media platform was slow to remove an anti-Semitic fan page.
The suit was subsequently dismissed after the judge found that Klayman failed to amend his complaint and an appeals court affirmed the dismissal for failure to state a claim in 2014.
“Indeed, in line with this uniform precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal under Rule 12 (b((6() of a complaint brought against Facebook based on allegations strikingly similar to those alleged here,” wrote Twitter.
In late February, officials with the Obama administration met with representatives of Facebook and Twitter, among others, to discuss the need to crack down on the use of the platforms by violent extremists, according to the New York Times.
Court documents show that a hearing on this motion has been set for April 20.