Court Tosses Cop's Attempt To Sue Twitter And Facebook For Someone Killing Cops In Texas

from the lots-of-wrongs-don't-make-a-right...-or-make-anyone-whole dept

Presumably prestigious law firm 1-800-LAW-FIRM is winning some cases somewhere. But it’s not having any luck with its dubious legal theories related to social media companies and “material support for terrorism.” The firm hasn’t racked up any wins in these cases (as far as I’m aware). The page touting its “anti-terrorism” lawsuits has a lot to say about the filings, but provides no details on the firm’s lack of success. And yet, the lawsuits keep flowing.

Not content to represent family members of people killed in terrorist attacks, 1-800-LAW-FIRM is also representing law enforcement officers not killed or injured by terrorists, but rather ones who happened to be on the scene of shootings targeting cops. Again, the real villain, according to this law firm (and its plaintiffs), is social media.

In January, Dallas Police Sergeant Demetrick Pennie sued [PDF] Twitter, Google, and Facebook, claiming they were directly responsible for “radicalizing” Micah Johnson, who shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. According to Pennie, the social media companies actively allowed and encouraged terrorist use of their platforms to spread their message and attract participants.

Pennie’s exploration of the outer limits of culpability has come to an end, netting 1-800-LAW-FIRM (and Excolo Law) a loss in its “sue social media for violent acts committed by individuals” sweepstakes.

In dismissing Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero found the plaintiffs failed to show a clear link between Hamas’ use of the companies’ social media networks and the Dallas shooting. Many similar cases have been filed, usually unsuccessfully.

“Absent plausible allegations that Hamas itself was in some way a substantial factor in the attack, there is no basis to conclude that any support provided by defendants to Hamas was a substantial factor,” Spero wrote.

The lawsuit was so lacking in connective arguments, Judge Spero never even had a chance to address the Section 230 immunity that likely would have seen it tossed anyway. The plaintiff posed a novel theory: that payments of ad revenue to alleged terrorists strips immunity, but the court says the plaintiff needs a lot more factual assertions on his side for the judge to even reach that question. From the decision [PDF]:

Because Plaintiffs‘ failure to allege a causal connection between Hamas and the Dallas shooting is reason enough to dismiss all claims, the Court declines to resolve the question of if or how the CDA applies where an interactive service provider shares advertising revenue with a content developer that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization.

Unfortunately, a string of losses all predicated on the same lousy legal theory aren’t going to head off further wastes of legal resources in the future. Suing terrorists may be almost impossible, but suing social media companies isn’t the solution. The person responsible for violent acts is ultimately the person who committed them. I understand the urge to seek some form of closure or redress when loved ones and colleagues are killed by terrorist acts, but trying to find a way to make Twitter, et al pay for violent acts they aren’t plausibly connected to will do little more than make the internet worse for everyone.

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Companies: facebook, twitter

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Comments on “Court Tosses Cop's Attempt To Sue Twitter And Facebook For Someone Killing Cops In Texas”

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10 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps they felt that suing internet platforms was the only alternative to going after “the usual suspects” – the gun manufacturer – since Micah Johnson’s Russian-built AK-74 “assault” rifle was made by a company that was not only outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, but was already banned from the country (for reasons unrelated to gun-control).

Stan (profile) says:

Might 1-800-LAW-FIRM represent me.

I live in a country where un-armed minorities are often killed by police. These same police have newsletters (i.e. social media) that are published by the local police union. These newsletters are “radicalizing” their officers. The publishers have become advocates of crime against un-armed civilians and thus should have any immunity stripped from them.

Does anyone think that 1-800-LAW-FIRM might represent me?

I.T. Guy says:

“According to Pennie, the social media companies actively allowed and encouraged terrorist use of their platforms”

Like an addict… the only way to get better is admitting you have a problem. Police are not ready to be helped. Nor do I think they ever will be. Never do they look at themselves and admit there is a problem. (Maybe jokingly while the “needle” hangs from their arm.)Cops… you have to act respectful to EARN respect.

1-800-LAW-FIRM… nuff said.

David (profile) says:

Maybe they should sue ISPs.

They are the ones promoting open terrorism (in customer billing, anyway).
It would be entertaining for them to be sued re being the responsible providers we all know they aren’t. So sic the bad law firm on them.

I would really rather have a top notch law firm take them on. Hey, it’s Xmas. I could use a gift from the Universe.

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