Latest Garbage Twitter/Terrorism Lawsuit Is The Stupidest Twitter/Terrorism Lawsuit

from the keep-your-receipts,-plaintiffs dept

Because there's no shortage of people willing to pay money for the thrill ride that is losing a lawsuit in federal court, 1-800-LAW-FIRM and Excolo Law remain viable entities. The lawsuits they bring aren't viable, but presumably retainers have been collected before the inevitable process of dismissal-appeal-dismissal begins.

These two firms are behind most of the lawsuits we've covered featuring plaintiffs attempting to hold a number of social media platforms responsible for acts of terrorism. The underlying events are tragic, but these lawsuits aren't the answer. They're ridiculous. Despite not having racked up a win at any level of the court system, the lawsuits continue to be filed. This doesn't reflect well on the law firms specializing in taking money from victims of terrorist attacks while offering them false hope of closure, if not actual compensation.

The latest lawsuit filed by these firms is only novel in the respect that it features a Dallas transit officer as a plaintiff, rather than someone from the private sector. Retana was wounded in the ambush of Dallas law enforcement officers back in 2016. This is where the Twitter+terrorists boilerplate -- which fills most of the lawsuit's 96 pages [PDF] -- gets really weird. (h/t Eric Goldman)

To get around the obvious Section 230 roadblock, these lawsuits invoke the US Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The filings tend to spend numerous pages detailing the history of whatever terrorist organization is relevant to the case, followed by a bunch of screenshots of supposed members of these groups utilizing Twitter, Facebook, et al. With this, the plaintiffs hope to convince a judge that the mere existence of terrorists on social media networks is "material support for terrorism" -- a violation of multiple anti-terrorism laws.

So far, this hasn't worked. Courts have found social media companies are not directly or indirectly responsible for terrorist acts. This lawsuit deploys the same tactic, spending a great deal of time discussing terrorist organization Hamas. After 77 pages discussing Hamas and its use of social media, the lawsuit tries to tie anti-terrorism laws to social media companies and the Dallas shooter with this single, conclusory (in the legal sense, not the literal sense) sentence.

Micah Johnson was radicalized, in part, by these organizations calling for the murders of police officers.

The suit then spends another several pages stating that the shooter's "liking" of certain social media pages and accounts calling for police officers to be killed is evidence of his radicalization by Hamas. Why? Well, apparently it's because some of these online groups have also expressed support for Hamas.

There's no solid connective tissue in this lawsuit. There are a bunch of inferences, but they're spectacularly weak. Nothing prior to this paragraph makes any explicit connection between the shooter's actions and the terrorist organization the lawsuit needs to convert a clear Section 230 case into an ATA case. Here's the law firms' embarrassing attempt to tie this unrelated mess together.

Micah Johnson was radicalized by HAMAS’ use of social media. This was the stated goal of HAMAS. Johnson then carried out the deadly attacks in Dallas. Conducting terrorist acts in the United States via radicalized individuals is a stated goal of HAMAS.

This follow-up is particularly bold, considering the lawsuit cannot make a strong case for this sentence, much less lawsuit itself.

But for HAMAS’ postings using Defendants’ social media platforms, Johnson would not have engaged in his attack on the Dallas Police.

That's an argument no one has made -- not even those who investigated the shooter and the shooting. Here's what the shooter himself had to say about his motivations:

The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers. ...The suspect stated that he was not affiliated with any groups, and he did this alone.

If you don't consider the shooter to be a credible source, here's the conclusions law enforcement investigators arrived at:

Two law enforcement officials told NPR's Dina Temple-Raston that they believe the suspect had been planning an attack for some time and acted on his own. They added that they have not identified a connection between the suspect and any international terrorism or domestic extremist groups.

The shooter left behind a "manifesto." Nothing in it declared any support for any terrorist groups. It spoke only of groups like Black Lives Matter and an urge to kill police officers for killing black Americans.

This makes the extraordinarily weak lawsuit even weaker. The law firms' reliance on a "material support for terrorism" theory has yet to find a judge willing to grant these arguments any credence. This one manages to be even worse than the weak lawsuits they've filed to this point. They can't even show a credible connection between the gunman and a terrorist group, much less how this is all social media's fault. Until the law firms manage to somehow top this, this is the bottom of the law firms' barrel of barrel-bottom scrapings.

Filed Under: cda 230, intermediary liability, material support for terrorism, section 230, terrorism
Companies: 1800 law firm, excolo law, twitter


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  • identicon
    ANON, 25 Feb 2019 @ 11:03am

    Stupid Lawsuits...

    In Canada, the loser in a lawsuit generally pays the winner's legal bills. This discourages lawsuits that are unlikely to succeed. Maybe the USA need more of this treatment of frivolous lawsuits.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 27 Feb 2019 @ 5:05am

      Re: Stupid Lawsuits...

      That would make for some pretty horrific human rights abuses when it interacts with other US laws -- it's already hard enough to sue government officials when they violate rights, but if the plaintiff would be stuck with (very likely heavily inflated) court costs after the first qualified immunity dismissal, odds are they'd be unable to afford to file the appeal that would see the dismissal reversed.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Feb 2019 @ 11:23am

    'Will you just stop fighting and give us money already?!'

    Lawsuit:

    But for HAMAS’ postings using Defendants’ social media platforms, Johnson would not have engaged in his attack on the Dallas Police.

    Suspect:

    The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers. ... The suspect stated that he was not affiliated with any groups, and he did this alone.

    Cops:

    Two law enforcement officials told NPR's Dina Temple-Raston that they believe the suspect had been planning an attack for some time and acted on his own. They added that they have not identified a connection between the suspect and any international terrorism or domestic extremist groups.

    You know you've reached peak desperation/greed when your claims are directly refuted by both the suspect and investigators.

    If their overwhelming greed wasn't screwing over the families of victims(I'd be highly surprised if these parasites are taking the cases pro-bono, or even only demanding a cut should they win), with a chance, if ever so faint, of screwing things up for the platforms and those millions that use them, their greed-fueled idiocy and the desperation it's driven them to would almost be funny.

    Judges really need to start handing out hefty benchslaps for cases like this, as I'd say this has easily reached the vexatious/abusive litigation stage, where they are abusing the system for personal gain, with the hopes of even more if they can just pester the companies into paying them to go away.

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

    • identicon
      spodula, 26 Feb 2019 @ 12:19am

      Re: 'Will you just stop fighting and give us money already?!'

      Hamas is particularly stupid choice for a nonsense lawsuit. While they are a particularly unpleasant organisation, they seem to keep their terrorist activities confined to Israel. Presumably because they dont want to end up like Iraq.

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 25 Feb 2019 @ 11:28am

    Shutdown

    If you listen to Smith and others here, Twitter/Google/Facebook should be shut down because they can't filter all bad content. Or you can listen to Blue Balls, who says that no posts should be censored. (But Google/Facebook/Twitter should be shut down anyway.)

    So yeah, people really believe these companies are at fault no matter what the laws say.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Feb 2019 @ 7:44pm

    The sad thing is, the same mentality that thinks there is a secret pedophile gang in the basement of a pizza parlor (that does not have a basement), only see the headlines & lock their brains. They want to think Twitter is part of the deep state conspiracy of fake news & murdering those who stand against the enemies of the state as declared by the Mango Mussolini & need to be sued out of existence!

    I miss when we taught civics in schools, when people learned what rights they really had. I miss when we had oversight that would have flattened these lawfirms for these merit-less lawsuits fleecing clients out of money & hope. I miss when a large portion of the population wasn't obsessed with conspiracy theories simply because reality is to hard to handle. I miss when when the bad guys did bad things & faced the charges themselves, instead of trying to involve anyone nearby who happened to have money.

    But then I'm an immortal sociopath so I always have hope you hairless apes will finally screw it all up & I get to see what species is uplifted next... none of them can screw it up as bad as y'all have.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2019 @ 8:06am

      Four words to never say: 'What could go wrong?'

      But then I'm an immortal sociopath so I always have hope you hairless apes will finally screw it all up & I get to see what species is uplifted next... none of them can screw it up as bad as y'all have.

      As trivial as it would be to do better, there's always, always the possibility to do worse, if perhaps in new, novel ways.

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Feb 2019 @ 11:31am

        Re: Four words to never say: 'What could go wrong?'

        dinosaur.preparing.to.masturbate.discovering.arms.to.short.raging.gif goes here

        For me it means not watching the same hairless apes doing the things over and over and over expecting different results and never learning lessons from it.

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

  • identicon
    William James, 28 Feb 2019 @ 11:09am

    Social Media as Terrorist Tool

    I remember the Kennedy brothers, shortly before they were assassinated, saying that the CIA was essentially a rogue international crime syndicate that must be dismantled asap considering the extreme danger to freedom and democracy around the world, and we have seen how CIA makes a great deal of use of the big social media platforms. These facts do suggest that the big Social Media a and Telecom companies are indeed terrorist instruments.

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


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