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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  1. 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.


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