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Twitter Censorship Communications Social Networks The Courts

Twitter Sued For Giving Voice To Islamic State (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader writes: An American woman named Tamara Fields has sued Twitter in U.S. federal court, saying the social network gave the Islamic State a voice to spread its propaganda. Fields's husband died on November 9, when the terrorist organization attacked a police training center in Amman, Jordan. The complaint alleges, "Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible." At the end of 2015, Twitter stepped up its efforts (or at least its official policies) to block such content from its site. But the company has been under fire for over a year from citizens and law enforcement officials over the activity of various terrorist groups on its platform. Fields's attorneys hope that her husband's death will give her proper standing to challenge Twitter in court.
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Twitter Sued For Giving Voice To Islamic State

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:23PM (#51311169)

    Suing an online commentary platform for allowing comments is ridiculous. However, anything that damages social media is welcome as far as I'm concerned.

    It will be a glorious day when Twitter and the rest of its ilk disappear into history just like myspace.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      She can't get money from suing ISIS. But she possibly can get money from suing Twitter.

      Corollary to the Golden Rule: he who has the gold gets sued.
       

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Since the corporation knew what their network was being used for, is your argument that they are entitled to profit from users (the "product") from using their network to organize the killing of others?

        • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @08:54PM (#51311621)

          One of these is true:

          1) Twitter employees read every one of the 500 million tweets per day that get posted and agree with the content of them all.

          2) You're making accusations despite having both a complete lack of evidence and a complete lack of understanding of the subject.

          • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Saturday January 16, 2016 @03:17AM (#51312647) Homepage

            One of these is true:

            1) Twitter employees read every one of the 500 million tweets per day that get posted and agree with the content of them all.

            2) You're making accusations despite having both a complete lack of evidence and a complete lack of understanding of the subject.

            BZZT. That's a 10 yard penalty for a False Dilemma fallacy. Try again.

            3) People have reported the offending content and Twitter left it up in the name of free speech -- while punishing people who disagree with fake feminist con artists like Zoe Quin or Brianna Wu, because "freeze peach" is so 1990s.

            • OK, rewrite the first one as:

              "Twitter employees read every one of the 250 million tweets per day that some shitcock somewhere whined about for some reason and agree with the content of them all."

              • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 )

                OK, rewrite the first one as:

                "Twitter employees read every one of the 250 million tweets per day that some shitcock somewhere whined about for some reason and agree with the content of them all."

                Either/or fallacy -- and doesn't match Twitter's current policy. They claim to have rules, they're mostly secret and vague rules and won't explain when you break them, but will ban you outright when you cross them. But only if you don't have the right friends.

                Disagree with a sociopath who happens to have the right politics? Ban.
                Point out a con artist doing "good things" is lying and openly scamming people out of thousands? Ban.
                Point out a troll who is harassing hundreds of people is a self admitted pedo

      • Believe it or not, there's actually a legal precedent for this:

        http://www.nytimes.com/1992/08... [nytimes.com]

        Probably a lot more too.

        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
          That's commercial speech, not quite the same thing as non-commercial or political speech, as the linked article states. Accepting payment for publishing a bit of speech is different than providing a general platform for people to speak. I'd say first amendment principles apply here, although if it is ruled that the material posted in the accounts in question run afoul of laws, then she may have the basis for a lawsuit. (IANAL etc etc etc)
    • by Hobadee ( 787558 )

      Hey, don't take away my Twitter! It's how I know if the train is on time or not! (And incidentally the only reason I got an account.)

    • Heh. Yeah, blasting your opinions on social media is really lame. Thanks for posting on Slashdot so we can hear about it.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      The specific limitations of commentary platforms encourage certain types of communication. Twitter's 140 character limit allows for no nuance and seems to only support only the kind of jingoism which leads to extreme positions online, coming out in the form of endless flame wars, and I can certainly see how it could play some role in promoting extreme positions offline as well.

      I blame Twitter for a large share of Gamergate, for example.
    • by ameoba ( 173803 )

      It's ilk like Slashdot?

    • I just hope that Twitter argues in court that the US government carries most of the responsibility for causing the rise of ISIS.

    • Well, Twitter does have rules against inciting violence. Presumably some of the ISIS-affiliated accounts do that. She might have standing to sue based on harm done to her because they weren't enforcing their own rules.
  • What's next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:26PM (#51311183)

    We should sue the courts for giving this lunatic a voice.

    • by khasim ( 1285 )

      Yeah. I'm guessing "fuck free speech if I can get some money".

      Also:

      The complaint alleges, "Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible."

      1. "most-feared" is more about the news agencies reporting. Statistically you are in more danger from your own family/friends.

      2. Al-Qaeda used to be "the most-feared" and they managed it without Twitter.

      3. Finally, what evidence does she have that those specific terroris

      • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @08:55PM (#51311623)

        1. "most-feared" is more about the news agencies reporting. Statistically you are in more danger from your own family/friends.

        Umm...That really, heavily, depends on where you live. In this case it was Jordan. Big difference than in the US.

        2. Al-Qaeda used to be "the most-feared" and they managed it without Twitter.

        Al Qaeda never managed to establish a caliphate.

        3. Finally, what evidence does she have that those specific terrorists actually used Twitter to recruit/plan/whatever? As opposed to, say, text messages.

        Considering that it's well known to be their primary recruitment platform (even by their own admission,) I'm sure you can find plenty.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        Especially number 1. I have zero fear of ISIS but there are some local threats that cause me to carry a pistol.

      • Re: What's next? (Score:3, Insightful)

        What proof does she have that her husband's killers were recruited by IS via Twitter? Absolutely none. Most of IS's recruiting is done physically in person, and for obvious reasons (Twitter is a hell of a lot easier for the NSA and military to track). Hell, almost every story I've heard about people joining IS is virtually the same: they met with a person at their mosque who saw them as an impressionable target and convinced them over a long period of time that they are being oppressed by the west and need

        • Most of IS's recruiting is done physically in person, and for obvious reasons (Twitter is a hell of a lot easier for the NSA and military to track).

          The FBI, the government, some analysts, and ISIS's own messages on Twitter disagree with you. Also the link below explains why no, the NSA can't reliability track this process. You're right eventually you meet in person, but that's just like any other job interview. The first place you hear from it is typically in a paper, then you apply via an agency, and you don't actually meet someone until the last part of your recruitment process.

          http://www.ijreview.com/2015/0... [ijreview.com]

          FBI Director James Comey described ISIS’s Twitter strategy at the Aspen Institute in July:

          “ISIL’s M.O. is they broadcast on Twitter, get people to follow them, then move them to Twitter Direct Messaging while they evaluate whether they’re a potential liaison either to travel or to kill where they are. Then they’ll move them to an encrypted mobile-messaging app, so they go dark to us.”

      • Statistically you are in more danger from your own family/friends.

        Especially children. [gocomics.com] Won't somebody think of them?

      • Yeah. I'm guessing "fuck free speech if I can get some money".

        Freedom of speech has nothing to do with this.

        The first (free speech) amendment of the US Constitution protects you and me from the government. It does not protect you and me from each other.

        This is a civil lawsuit between this woman and Twitter.

    • At first it may seem lunacy, except for the fact that Twitter does ban accounts in a very selective way - unfortunately for Twitter, there is a very well documented trend of banning accounts critical of Islam. For this very reason Twitter made themselves very susceptible to this lawsuit.

    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:44PM (#51311283) Homepage Journal

      Thing about bans, they still need to be evenly enforced, and twitter seems to selectively enforcing their rules. Facebook is currently in a lawsuit over this for allowing "kill Israelis" pages and only banning "kill Arabs" pages. Companies are not evenly enforcing their policies and actually being very offensive towards some groups.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Twitter represents the digital infrastructure to allow a horde of mostly mindless feather brains to scream into the void from their digital perches. Twitter does not provide the voice, it purely provides the digital medium for you to hook up your digital device on the digital network you pay for. Policies will never been uniformly applied because Twitter only reacts to a sufficient number of shrill cries from it members. The more feather brains that squawk about something annoying them, the more likely Twi

      • by nbauman ( 624611 )

        Facebook is currently in a lawsuit over this for allowing "kill Israelis" pages and only banning "kill Arabs" pages.

        I couldn't find that with a Google search. Could you give me a source for that?

      • This is why bans on any form of speech are a bad idea. They inevitably end up imbalanced and biased at some point. Even something as simple as "no messages calling for anyone to be killed" are hard to apply to posts like "He should be removed from office by any means necessary." Is that a death threat? Should it be censored by the calls to be killed? These subjective calls are impossible for a neutral third party to apply -- they end up taking sides, and when your communication medium takes sides, then they

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 )

      Sounds like this lawsuit was filed about behavior before that TOS went into effect.

    • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @08:14PM (#51311393) Homepage Journal

      No, this is in the US. It is fueled by one thing and one thing only: GREED.

    • The problem is the scale of the problem. Twitter has, in fact, disabled plenty of accounts. But it's a frikkin gigantic service. How many millions of Twitter accounts are there? How many millions of tweets go out per day? And you have so sort through all of that to find the ISIS accounts and tweets.

      To do it algorithmically, you need to write software that can reliably identify... with a minimum of false positives, mind you... the genuine ISIS users from: people talking about ISIS, people reporting on I

      • And even if you terminate an account, it's trivial for the person or people behind it to set up another account. I've experienced this personally. A person was harassing me and a bunch of other people on Twitter so we reported her. Her account was banned. She started a new account and harassed us again. We reported her again and she was banned again. She made a new account again, etc. The cycle would repeat sometimes dozens of times a day. In fact, she's still on Twitter today (though she's backed o

    • First the SJWs went after gamers. Then they went after @nero. Now they're going after ISIS.

      Damn them all to hell.

    • None of those items apply in this situation, though......
      ISIS does not have terrorist groups in America because they targeting some specific demographic. They do not care where you were born, or the colour of your skin, and they have killed loads of American Muslims. They just hate America, and Americans, which is a nationality and explicated left out of this list.

      So Twitter recentally announced that you can promote violence against and Americans?

  • Hmmmm.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Brostenen ( 3503451 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @07:34PM (#51311213)
    So... Let me get this straight! If her husband was killed in an auto accident instead Would she then sue those who build the road? Or would she sue those who build the car that drove into her husband? Why, when she actually sue's twitter. Why would she not sue those who created the internet? Twitter can't be held reliable for this. They are after all doing something as of now.
    • Well, now you're just being silly with your uncommon sense.

      Caruso style! [instantrimshot.com]

    • It all depends if the accident occurs because of the road, the car or both. You should be allowed to sue. It doesn't mean at all you should win everytime you sue.
      • ...occurred...
      • I think the analogy goes ISIS grew because of Twitter and the car accident wouldn't have happened because it would had been driven if the road didn't exist. Of course with that analogy the woman should sue computer, OS, and phone makers, telcos, and electric companies for letting ISIS having an audience.

    • The internet doesn't work with out electricity...sue Benjamin Franklin!

  • Let's not forget... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Onuma ( 947856 )
    ...to sue the air for carrying wireless messages, and the photons of light which transmit via fiber optic glass...and the glass too!
  • Good.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    She should sue all the telecoms who own the networks that this traffic was sent over while she's at it!

  • So again, we have another semi-intelligent person angry about not-even-new technologies that allow people to communicate with the broader World.....

    Yes, it can be used for hate or trolling, but hey, you enjoy Free Speech right? (Or as much as we have in the modern World)

    I hate to hear about BS like this.........sue anything you can for monetary gain and for personal reasons..........I'd say 'gtfo' lol
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So again, we have another semi-intelligent person angry about not-even-new technologies that allow people to communicate with the broader World.....

      That's giving them WAY too much credence. I'd go with non-intelligent. The constant demands from these "people" can be summed up as follows:

      "We only want to hear / see / otherwise come into contact with things that we approve of, and if we come into contact with something that does not meet that criteria, then it must be destroyed and it's creator punished."

      Thi

    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      Actually, this is more like shooting the *train driver* for carrying the messenger on his train.

      The messenger would be the ones who sent the tweet.

    • Unfortunately for Twitter, they have been shooting specific messengers already - banning accounts critical of Islam - and so they have a good chance of actually losing this lawsuit.

  • Her grief and desire to fight back somehow is understandable and she has my sympathy, but sueing Twitter is utterly pointless and as misdirected as you can get. Twitter doesn't really have any effective control over user-generated content; herding a thousand ferrets on amphetamines would be an easier task than that.
  • If people get activated, enticed, angry, violent from written word (pictures/videos), where is the problem?

    The written word (pictures/videos) somewhere, or the readiness to fall for it and being unable see where this is coming from and leading to, needing a constant nurse to look after so they don't start killing each other. So it's a pretty hopeless situation.

    Seems that's reality..

    How so?

  • In a world I could trust, I'd just assume the courts would kindly inform the woman that she has no case. She is grieving and in pain. Her reaction is part of the fallout of the terrorist act. We should act to support her despite the fact that she wants to sue a company that is clearly not responsible. Unfortunately, I fear the courts might support her suit. If she were to succeed and have a judgement rendered against twitter, I'd be furious. I wouldn't be furious at her, I'd be furious at the judge/co
  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @08:27PM (#51311469)
    She in understandably upset, but what she really wants to do is lash out at somebody. There has to be someone to blame, and there is no way for her to get at the real perps, so she (and her lawyers) go after a big name that everyone knows.

    The magical landscape of the internet is a perfect place to project all that rage. The public has no clue about how it works or how it is controlled, so any claim about responsibility can seem credible. If she had sued Toyota because they seem to be the official truck of ISIS, everyone would know she was off base and acting irrationally. But you go after the likes of Twitter and it makes good headlines.

    In some ways Twitter has set themselves up for this. Twitter, Facebook, and other such services want all the power and money that goes with being a de facto public utility like a phone company. Then want to avoid the rules that apply to common carriers because it would limit their behavior. If they had common carrier status it would protect them from this kind of law suit. They want it both ways: the reach of a public utility without any of the responsibility. The only good part of this whole mess is that they will have to deal with a publicity nightmare because of their greed and arrogance.

    • so she (and her lawyers) go after a big name that everyone knows.

      There's more to this than going after anyone with money. People have been fairly critical of Twitter's response to terrorism. Accounts suspended and then released, no attempts at blocking, no attempts at curating. They have a formal policy now, but that was only introduced after 4chan went all out exposing an incredible number of Twitter accounts used by ISIS, and now Twitter is saying they are actively doing something despite the face ISIS's activities and the scale of their activities on Twitter have been

  • for allowing the US gov to spread democracy through force and allowing events that lead to the raise of terrorist groups?

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @09:48PM (#51311857)

      Sue Greece. They started all this democracy crap in the first place.

  • Same old stupidity, to the point of being tiresome. Litigation lotto. Shooting the messenger. Breaking the honey-pot instead of shooting the bear. Etc., etc...

  • Who is she going to sue next? Mosques where radical muslims meet? Cell phone companies that allow them to [gasp] TALK to each other???? Or how about those suspicious e-mail providing companies?

    This woman is an idiot.

    • This is why corporations need net neutrality. Info services should not be required to monitor their traffic, just respond to complaints. Anything else puts a massive strain and cost on business.
  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Saturday January 16, 2016 @02:33AM (#51312569) Journal
    Technically, speech can be protected, but a platform for disseminating speech? It didn't work for Napster. And since treason is defined as providing aid and comfort to the enemy and ISIL has declared itself to be at war with all western states, well, as absurd as it is, this case may have legs. I am not a lawyer though. So hopefully someone has a better way to defend the argument that censorship is not a good alternative to hateful.
    • It all depends on whether:

      a) Twitter was alerted to the accounts and didn't shut them down.
      and
      b) the case is about the previous or about Twitter not shutting down accounts BEFORE being alerted to them.

      Twitter can't be expected to see all tweets coming through and somehow determine which ones are bad and which aren't. Is the account saying "Death to America!" because they want to blow us up? Or is it saying that because it's some sort of in-joke between friends online? Software won't be able to tell and t

      • Well, patterns in text are hardly as challenging to monitor as voice calls. So common carrier defense would not work. Twitter is the prime platform for farming financial sentiment data. It can certainly do enough automated filtering to reduce the info which gets twitted and is worth checking for terrorism advertising. This is no different than requiring safety standards from car manufacturers. In fact, it can be argued that much more unpredictability exists for a physical quickly-moving vehicle than fo
  • This case is a journey into barely touched judicial territory of things like civil aiding and abetting and first amendment civil law.

    I think Americans' (rightful) pride in the First Amendment has blinded many to the fact that legislators have basically stopped paying attention to the whole area of speech, and so there's a huge amount we'll-know-it-when-we-see-it arbitrary case law around things like free vs. criminal speech, what speech acts are protected from civil liability, etc.

    • I think Americans' (rightful) pride in the First Amendment has blinded many to the fact that legislators have basically stopped paying attention to the whole area of speech, and so there's a huge amount we'll-know-it-when-we-see-it arbitrary case law around things like free vs. criminal speech, what speech acts are protected from civil liability, etc.

      You seem utterly uninformed on the topic you're publicly commenting. Free speech means the GOVERNMENT can't decide on behalf of the citizens what they can or can't say. As Twitter is not part of the government, any reference to free speech is idiotic.

  • Isis uses Toyota trucks to go places. If Isis didn't have Toyota trucks, they'd have to walk everywhere and would not have been able to grow so quickly.
  • On one hand, we have the "Freedom of Speech" with the Right to be Heard, no matter how unpopular the subject.

    On the other hand, we have Control and Censorship to deter things and expressions that can and have been harmful to society as a whole.

    What will this result in?

    Let's all watch and see what happens here. No matter the result, it will have a far-reaching effect on things to come after.

  • "Tweets don't kill people, people kill people." ?
  • This lady is flushing her money down the drain. I can not imagine a court allowing this suit to win.

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