Loss In 9th Circuit Appeals Court Isn't Slowing 1-800-LAWFIRM's Lawsuit Crusade Against Social Media Companies

from the 'I-have-not-yet-begun-to-lose!'---800LAWFIRM-rep-probably dept

1-800-LAWFIRM's oblique assault on Section 230 continues. This firm, along with Excolo Law, have been behind several Plaintiff v. Social Media lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. responsible for acts of terrorism. The legal theories are as terrible as they are long-winded. In an effort to route around Section 230 immunity, these firms have tried to portray the mere existence of terrorist groups on social media platforms as active material support for terrorism by tech companies. But Section 230 itself is also targeted, just in case the plaintiffs happen to luck into a federal judge willing to punch holes in immunity.

So far, none of these efforts have been successful. The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court recently rang up another loss for 1-800-LAWFIRM, finding none of its arguments credible. Unfortunately, it did not go so far as to reaffirm Section 230 immunity, limiting itself to 1-800-LAWFIRM's novel legal theories about the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). But, as Cathy Gellis noted in her coverage of the decision, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. By focusing on the ATA, Section 230 remains undamaged, and doesn't draw the attention of enterprising politicians who might try to "do something" (terrible) to keep terrorists from using social media platforms.

Unfortunately, terrorists continue to kill and injure people, providing these law firms with clients hoping to extract payment from tech companies as compensation for death and injury caused by terrorists. As Eric Goldman notes, the Ninth Circuit loss has had no deterrent effect, apparently. But this loss possibly explains why the latest lawsuit [PDF] has been filed in Illinois, rather than in California (where the social media defendants are headquartered) like the law firm's previous attempts. Illinois is the plaintiff's home state, which gives the venue switch some legal grounding. More importantly, it moves the battle to the Sixth Circuit, where 1-800-LAWFIRM has yet to be shut down at the appellate level.

The lawsuit is exceedingly long. It runs 128 pages and 663 paragraphs. Is it worth reading? Not really. Not unless you really need a blow-by-blow account of social media use by terrorists over the years, occasionally punctuated with things like this, presumably to remind the judge there's a personal injury lawsuit buried in all this exposition.

ISIS used and relied on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity, including the terrorist attacks in which ISIS murdered 130 individuals and injured Mandy Palmucci.

The lawsuit contains the usual bad assertions about content moderation, or perceived lack thereof. It claims YouTube could easily police the hundreds of thousands of hours of footage submitted every day. The same goes for Twitter, which supposedly should be able to maintain strict control of millions of tweets flowing from its platform daily. It cites one "expert" who claims terrorist content could be as easily monitored as child pornography but glosses over the part where the current CP monitoring system was years in development and required active participation of multiple law enforcement agencies from around the world. And, unlike child porn, there are several reasons "terrorist content" could remain live, considering its use to journalists, activists, and law enforcement investigators.

The whole thing redefines the word "active" to mean ad placement by algorithm or copycat "terrorist" accounts springing up on social media services to replace those shut down by platforms. The legal reps would like the judge to believe that any terrorist content anywhere on these platforms is evidence of material support for terrorism. It's a ridiculous argument and it's unlikely to end up in the hands of a sympathetic judge, no matter which circuit it's filed in. The Ninth Circuit decision may not be precedential in this circuit, but it can still be instructive. Someone may still find a way to damage Section 230 immunity by linking it to worldwide terrorism, but it won't be these lawsuits.


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  • icon
    z! (profile), 23 Feb 2018 @ 10:25am

    128 pages? Do local rules even permit that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Feb 2018 @ 10:28am

    The cynic in me says this is a coordinated effort to try to poke a hole at stuff the entrenched power doesn't like. Just like with copyright trolling. And when the other part of me says "nah, it can't be" this cynic whispers "Edward Snowden".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 23 Feb 2018 @ 11:22am

    So stupid

    How stupid? Just replace a couple words and you see.

    > ISIS used and relied on electricity, water, and public roads as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity, including the terrorist attacks in which ISIS murdered 130 individuals and injured Mandy Palmucci.

    The plaintiffs are stupid, greedy, and or grieving, and shysters are taking full advantage. These lawyers need to be sanctioned... at the very least.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      carlb, 23 Feb 2018 @ 3:35pm

      Re: So stupid

      "ISIS used and relied on electricity, water, and public roads as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity..."

      You do realise there's a petition floating around the Internet somewhere asking that water be regulated, restricted or banned. Apparently it contains dihydrogen monoxide, a deadly chemical which has killed thousands of people and destroyed entire villages.

      I'd expect there'd also be an Amish petition out there somewhere to abolish electricity, but I can't seem to find a copy online as the Amish have no computers. :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 25 Feb 2018 @ 10:40am

      Re: So stupid

      "The plaintiffs are stupid, greedy, and or grieving, and shysters are taking full advantage. These lawyers need to be sanctioned... at the very least."
      So if you and I know that, and we're not judges, then why can't judges start doing this? How many lawsuits against social media does it take for the court system to realize there's no case and that the lawyers filing these cases are taking advantage of the victims?

      At the very least, the lawyers should sent back to law school to learn "just because Google/ Facebook/ Twitter have a lot of money, it doesn't mean you can sue them for anything you can think of".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 Feb 2018 @ 2:11am

    "ISIS used and relied on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity"

    They also used, presumably, food, water, sewage, electricity, public transport, cars, planes, the postal system, mobile and/or landline phone systems, batteries and clothing, among other things. But, I suppose, "ISIS did the things that everybody else does in the 21st century" doesn't grab the headlines or billable hours.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 24 Feb 2018 @ 9:32am

    Proofreading

    Two nits that jump out at me:

    • Plantiff -> Plaintiff

    • footage submitted everyday -> footage submitted every day

    The former is clearly a simple typo, but the latter is one of my minor peeves. The word "everyday" is an adjective, meaning something like "routine" or "ordinary"; the phrase "every day" is a noun, meaning "each day without exception". This context clearly requires a noun.

    (I'd prefer to report this sort of thing directly, rather than via public comment that's likely to remain up forever even if the mistakes get corrected, but if there's a meaningful way of doing so I'm not aware of what it is.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 24 Feb 2018 @ 7:22pm

      Re: Proofreading

      Seconded, a way to report that the typo monster has struck wouldn't be bad...
      otherwise, just say "typo monster has bitten again!" and
      s/footage submitted everyday/footage submitted every day/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Canuck, 26 Feb 2018 @ 1:49am

      Re: Proofreading

      Personally, I see nothing wrong with pointing out errors. I'd like to know how "Plantiff" survived a simple spell check. Seems like articles don't even get one? Points for actually correcting those two errors in this story, though.

      While we're here, it'd be nice if Techdirt's writers could learn the difference between "lead" and "led"; that shows up far too often.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 25 Feb 2018 @ 6:37am

    "The former is clearly a simple typo, but the latter is one of my minor peeves"

    Why is the first obviously a typo but missing a space is obviously not a typo?

    "if there's a meaningful way of doing so I'm not aware of what it is."

    Did you try the "Help & Feedback" link at the bottom of the page?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 25 Feb 2018 @ 8:35am

      Re:

      Why is the first obviously a typo but missing a space is obviously not a typo?

      The missing space is not "obviously not a typo"; it is merely "not obviously (nothing more than) a typo". (By contrast to the other, which is obviously nothing more than a typo.)

      It could be one, but other explanations exist, and past experience (in many contexts) leads me to suspect that one of those other explanations is the more likely (and thus treat it as the default).

      Did you try the "Help & Feedback" link at the bottom of the page?

      No; it hadn't occurred to me that that might be appropriate. I would expect (and/or would have expected) that such a site-navigation-footer "feedback" link would be for reporting problems with the site in general or as a whole, not details about individual articles. Glancing at it, it doesn't really seem particularly well suited for the purpose - though arguably not much less so than the comment form is, and the fact that it's nonpublic where the comment form is not might be enough to outweigh that "not much".

      If that contact/feedback form really is intended and suitable for pointing out typos (et cetera) on individual articles, that's fine, and I can go that route in future (assuming I remember) - but I don't think there's anything to lead the observer to expect that to be the case.

      (I seem to be in a moderately pedantic, lots-of-parentheses mode at the moment. Sorry if that gets in the way here...)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Feb 2018 @ 12:52am

        Re: Re:

        Well, yeah, you are being needlessly pedantic. Not only are the words you've complained about really not worth the effort of typing as much as you have, you then won't even bother trying the one reporting option open to you that may match the one you wish existed. I'm not sure what else to say, I just thought it was strange that an errant space has annoyed you so much, yet you won't try a basic contact form to get it fixed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 26 Feb 2018 @ 5:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I didn't say that I won't try it, for future instances; I may do so, now that it's been brought to my attention.

          The reason I didn't try it originally is that it didn't occur to me that it might be appropriate, and the reason I haven't tried it now that you've pointed it out is that I've already reported the problem (publicly, with all the downsides involved in that) so there's no real point in reporting it again (privately).

          As to "not worth the effort of typing as much as (I) have", most of the typing thus far has been about explaining myself; when someone asks me about something that's not obvious, and seems reasonable about doing so, I usually prefer to answer - if only as a matter of courtesy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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