Twitter Asks Court To Dump Ridiculous Lawsuit Claiming It Provides Material Support For Terrorists
from the should-be-an-easy-one dept
Back in January, we wrote about an absolutely ridiculous case, in which Tamara Fields sued Twitter, after her husband was tragically killed in an ISIS raid last year. Why Twitter? She apparently blames Twitter for the rise of ISIS. She provides no evidence to show that the people who killed her husband (a government contractor for DynCorp International) was killed by people who used Twitter. Or that anything about the attack was related to Twitter. It’s entirely just “ISIS uses Twitter. ISIS killed by husband. Let’s sue Twitter.” As we noted at the time, Section 230 should easily get this lawsuit tossed out quickly, and the company has now filed its Motion to Dismiss. The TL;DR: “Section 230, Section 230, What a stupid lawsuit this is.”
Plaintiff?s claims seek to hold Twitter liable for the content of messages posted to its platform by third parties and are thus barred by Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 230 (?Section 230?). In enacting Section 230, Congress unequivocally resolved the question whether computer service providers may be held liable for harms arising from content created by third parties. Announcing the policy of the United States to preserve the ?free market that presently exists for the Internet . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation,? 47 U.S.C. § 230(b)(2), Congress broadly immunized entities like Twitter against lawsuits that seek to hold them liable for harmful or unlawful third-party content, including suits alleging that such entities failed to block, remove, or alter such content
Of course, even without Section 230, the lawsuit should be dumped, because Twitter had nothing to do with anything in this case.
It fails to state a claim for relief under the Terrorism Civil Remedy provision. That provision requires Plaintiff to allege and prove (1) that she was injured ?by reason of??i.e., that her injury was proximately caused by?(2) an ?act of international terrorism? committed by Twitter. 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a). The Complaint?s allegations satisfy neither requirement. First, the link the Complaint attempts to draw between Twitter?s alleged conduct and the attack is, as a matter of law, far too tenuous to establish that Twitter proximately caused Mr. Fields? death. Second, the Complaint?s allegations amount to nothing more than the claim that Twitter made its communications platform available to everyone in the world with an Internet connection. As a matter of law, that conduct cannot have constituted ?an act of international terrorism? as defined by the statute because it plainly does not ?appear to [have been] intended? ?to intimidate or coerce a civilian population,? ?to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,? or ?to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping,?…
Later, the filing notes:
The Complaint makes no attempt to connect Twitter directly to Abu Zaid or his attack. It does not allege that ISIS recruited Abu Zaid over the Twitter platform. Nor does it allege that Abu Zaid or ISIS used the Twitter platform to plan, carry out, or raise money for the attack. It does not even allege that Abu Zaid had a Twitter account or ever accessed the Twitter platform. And although the Complaint devotes considerable attention to how other terrorists allegedly used the Twitter platform, it never explains how that alleged use had even the remotest connection to Abu Zaid?s ?lone wolf? attack. The Complaint does not, for example, allege that ISIS helped Abu Zaid plan the attack or that ISIS provided Abu Zaid with weapons or funds. Beyond the speculation that Abu Zaid and ISIS may have shared the common objectives of inflicting harm on Americans and establishing a transnational Islamic caliphate, the closest the Complaint comes to even hinting at a connection between the two is the allegation that ISIS?s ?brutal execution of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh in February 2015? may have inspired Abu Zaid to become a ?lone wolf? terrorist nine months later.
Obviously, having your husband killed in a “lone wolf” attack is a horrible and horrifying situation for anyone to go through. But suing Twitter seems like a particularly misguided response. It would be positively shocking if the judge actually lets this case go any further.