Sixth Circuit Court Dumps Lawsuit Seeking To Hold Twitter Responsible For The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
from the another-attack-victim-taken-for-a-ride dept
Another one of 1-800-LAW-FIRM’s lawsuits has been tossed for a second time. After being shut down at the district level for attempting to hold social media companies responsible for the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, the law firm asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at its dubious legal theories.
The Appeals Court has taken another look and it doesn’t like what it sees any more than the district court did. The violent act committed inside the nightclub was horrible, but the court cannot provide a remedy for every wrong — especially not in a case where the plaintiffs are trying to hold a third party responsible for violent acts they neither encouraged nor committed.
Social media platforms may make it easier for terrorists to spread their message, but that does not add up to material support for terrorism. That’s the legal theory 1-800-LAW-FIRM and Excolo Law have been using to push these lawsuits in order to dodge the obvious Section 230 implications. It has yet to find support in any court. It doesn’t find any here either. From the decision [PDF]:
We sympathize with Plaintiffs—they suffered through one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history. “But not everything is redressable in a court.” Kemper v. Deutsche Bank AG, 911 F.3d 383, 386 (7th Cir. 2018). And terrorist attacks present unique difficulties for those injured because the terrorists “directly responsible may be beyond the reach of the court.” Id. This is one such case. But the absence of Mateen and the inability to hold ISIS responsible cannot create liability elsewhere. Plaintiffs’ complaint includes no allegations that Twitter, Facebook, or Google had any direct connection to Mateen or his heinous act. And Plaintiffs do not suggest that Defendants provided “material support” to Mateen. Without these connections, Plaintiffs cannot state a viable claim under the ATA. As a result, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims.
The Appeals Court also agrees with the lower court’s finding that the nightclub shooting had almost nothing to do with the international terrorism the plaintiffs claim Twitter and others are helping support. The shooter was “self-radicalized” and nothing in the plaintiffs’ 51-page complaint is able to conclusively tie a domestic shooting by a US citizen to ISIS or its online recruitment efforts.
The plaintiffs want the court to apply a completely ridiculous “proximate cause” standard that has never been applied before and will never be applied in the future. There’s no legal basis for it and it would pretty much allow almost anyone to sue almost anyone else for almost anything.
With the “highly interconnected” nature of social media, the internet, and “modern economic and social life”—we expect Defendants’ websites to cause some “ripples of harm” that would “flow far beyond the defendant’s misconduct.” Fields, 881 F.3d at 749. But without more, Defendants do not proximately cause all these potential ripples. The content did not compel Mateen’s actions.
Indeed, if we accepted Plaintiffs’ argument, Defendants would become liable for seemingly endless acts of modern violence simply because the individual viewed relevant social media content before deciding to commit the violence.
With nothing to hang on Twitter, there’s nothing left of this lawsuit. The state law claims follow the federal claims into a dismissal with prejudice. 1-800-LAW-FIRM wants another chance to amend its lawsuit but the Appeals Court says it should have tried that earlier at the district level. This lawsuit is dead, just like so many others filed by this law firm.