Over the past year or so, there has been some people questioning
if merely tweeting
could be considered "material support for terrorism." Taking things to another level altogether, Tamara Fields, whose husband (a government contractor for DynCorp International) was tragically killed in an ISIS strike late last year, has now sued Twitter for providing "material support" for ISIS
Let's be clear on a few things: I can't even imagine the horrors of having your loved ones killed that way. It is horrible and tragic, and the pain must be unfathomable to those who have not gone through it. But, at the same time, that's not Twitter's fault
no matter how you look at it. The full lawsuit
, filed in California by lawyers who should
know better, makes a number of ridiculous assertions, including the idea that the rise of ISIS would have never happened without Twitter.
Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the mostfeared
terrorist group in the world would not have been possible. According to the Brookings
Institution, ISIS “has exploited social media, most notoriously Twitter, to send its propaganda and
messaging out to the world and to draw in people vulnerable to radicalization.” Using Twitter,
“ISIS has been able to exert an outsized impact on how the world perceives it, by disseminating
images of graphic violence (including the beheading of Western journalists and aid workers) . . .
while using social media to attract new recruits and inspire lone actor attacks.” According to FBI
Director James Comey, ISIS has perfected its use of Twitter to inspire small-scale individual
attacks, “to crowdsource terrorism” and “to sell murder.”
Is ISIS fairly adept at using Twitter? Sure. Does that mean that it wouldn't have become the group it's become today? That's ridiculous
. The rest of the complaint takes a number of statements, concerning Twitter's support for free speech rights totally out of context
, including repeatedly relying on quotes from individuals who haven't worked for Twitter in years. It also quotes people whining that Twitter should
do more as evidence that the company has a legal obligation to do more.
The lawsuit is going nowhere. First of all, considering that it's a civil lawsuit, Twitter is totally
and completely protected by Section 230 of the CDA that says the company is not liable for how people use the platform. That's enough to end the case right there. The case will almost certainly be tossed pretty quickly based on 230. Even if that wasn't
the case, the claims in the lawsuit that Twitter does basically nothing to stop terrorists are laughably untrue. In fact, ISIS has been issuing death threats
against the company and its execs because
they've been removing accounts.
On top of that, many have actually been complaining that Twitter goes too far
in these efforts. Hell, just a couple weeks ago, the company accidentally shut down the account of a guy people mistakenly thought
was ISIS's leader, despite actually being a strong supporter of democracy and freedom, who just happened to have the same last name.
Too many people seem to think that there's some magic wand that Twitter can wave that'll make ISIS "disappear" from the service. It doesn't work that way. The law certainly doesn't require that. And while Twitter does proactively look to take down accounts that are advocating for terrorism, that doesn't mean it's even possible, or reasonable, that it can find every one. Targeting Twitter for a lawsuit just smacks of a Steve Dallas lawsuit
, where upset people sue a large company barely involved in things, because that's where the money is.
Finally, over and over again, intelligence officials keep claiming that the fact that ISIS folks are tweeting and Facebooking is actually one of the best ways
to keep track of what they're doing and saying. Shutting them down may seem appealing, but actually could decrease the ability to track them and their activities.
Either way, this lawsuit is dead on arrival. It will get tossed out thanks to Section 230. The lawyers who filed it should have known better. Yes, the situation is tragic and horrible and unfortunate. But it's not Twitter's fault -- and suing the company over it just looks ridiculous.