NEW YORK, N.Y. – A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a lawsuit accusing Twitter of supporting the Islamic State group.
The families of two men killed in Jordan claimed that Twitter had contributed to their deaths by allowing the group to sign up for and use Twitter accounts. The judge agreed with Twitter that the company cannot be held liable because federal law protects service providers that merely offer platforms for speech, without creating the speech itself.
“As horrific as these deaths were, … Twitter cannot be treated as a publisher or speaker of ISIS’s hateful rhetoric and is not liable under the facts alleged,” U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick wrote Wednesday.
The federal Communications Decency Act has long protected service providers for remarks made and actions taken by their users, so Wednesday’s ruling came as no surprise. But that law runs in conflict with an anti-terrorism law prohibiting support for groups like the IS.
The families have the option to amend and refile the case.
Lloyd “Carl” Fields Jr. and James Damon Creach were shot and killed in 2015 while working as U.S. government contractors in Amman, Jordan, according to the lawsuit. The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for their deaths. The lawsuit names Anwar Abu Zaid as the lone gunman.
Orrick noted that the lawsuit didn’t claim that the IS recruited or communicated with Abu Zaid over Twitter, nor did the lawsuit accuse either of using Twitter to plan, carry out or raise funds for the attack. Rather, the lawsuit said Twitter provided “material support” in allowing the use of Twitter accounts for recruitment and other purposes.
A similar lawsuit against Google, Facebook and Twitter was filed in June by the father of a young woman killed in the Paris massacre last November.
Representatives for Twitter and a lawyer representing the families of two men could not immediately be reached for comment.