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Revived Lawsuit Says Twitter DMs Are Like Handing ISIS a Satellite Phone (theverge.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A long-standing lawsuit holding Twitter responsible for the rise of ISIS got new life today, as plaintiffs filed a revised version of the complaint (PDF) that was struck down earlier this month. In the new complaint, the plaintiffs argue Twitter's Direct Message service is akin to providing ISIS with physical communications equipment like a radio or a satellite phone. The latest complaint is largely the same as the one filed in January, but a few crucial differences will be at the center of the court's response. The plaintiffs also offer new arguments for why Twitter might be held responsible for the attack. In the dismissal earlier this month (PDF), District Judge William Orrick faulted the plaintiffs for not articulating a case for why providing access to Twitter's services constituted material aid to ISIS. "Apart from the private nature of Direct Messaging, plaintiffs identify no other way in which their Direct Messaging theory seeks to treat Twitter as anything other than a publisher of information provided by another information content provider," the ruling reads. At the same time, the judge found that the privacy of those direct messages "does not remove the transmission of such messages from the scope of publishing activity." The new complaint includes some language that might address that concern, explicitly comparing Twitter to other material communication tools. "Giving ISIS the capability to send and receive Direct Messages in this manner is no different than handing it a satellite phone, walkie-talkies or the use of a mail drop," the new complaint reads, "all of which terrorists use for private communications in order to further their extremist agendas." The Safe Harbor clause has been used in the past to protect service providers from liability for hosting data on their network. However, "Brookings Institute scholar Benjamin Witters argued against protecting Twitter under the Safe Harbor clause, claiming that the current reasoning would also protect companies that actively offer services in support of terrorists."
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Revived Lawsuit Says Twitter DMs Are Like Handing ISIS a Satellite Phone

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    • Is that analogy supposed to rest on the idea they don't already have satellite phones?

      • Turning on a sat phone in Syria is probably the fastest way to get a predator drone dropping in for a party

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Is that analogy supposed to rest on the idea they don't already have satellite phones?

        Worse. It rests on the idea that Twitter knows who the terrorists are.

        Providing something to someone in good faith isn't a crime even if they later turn out to be a terrorist, as a rule. I mean sure, if you provide a firearm, you'd probably better have done due diligence, and if you send money to a charity in the Middle East, it is probably a good idea to do so, though not legally required. However, AT&T isn't commi

    • It would be better just to hand them a regular satellite phone and let the various intelligence dragnets scoop up the ISIS members and all of their like minded contacts. While we are stuck with all these massive privacy invasions we might as well reap some benefits from them.
    • We need to stop being hypocrites about our values.
      Private communication risks our security (As the bad guys cannot be monitored).
      Security risks our privacy (As the good guys will be monitored).

      I would also like to make a point it doesn't take a team of super geniuses to code an encrypted and unrecorded communication protocol. Just one guy, and less than one day of work. It may not be clean and polished, but it would do the job.

         

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        Isn't the problem with Twitter that it's essentially a broadcast medium? These aren't private conversations - that's a different issue. The problem is allowing ISIS to use Twitter and/or Facebook or whatever as recruiting tools. As such, there's nothing anonymous about it - they're broadcasting that they're ISIS, and these tools make them easy to find for non-affiliated, potential recruits. The content itself, is anything but secret - it's propaganda, which by definition has to be as widely available as

  • Consistency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @08:53PM (#52800319)
    Twitter itself buys into (through their vague ToS and uneven/biased enforcement) arguments equating disagreement with harassment, and criticism with threats. And it throws even those stances out the window when the "harassing" party aligns with the right politics. Their Trust and Safety Council contains known harassers and doxxers.

    If Twitter consistently took up a principled position to protect free speech (instead of cracking down on political thoughtcrime at the drop of a hat), they'd be in a much better position to resist this.
    • You need to do more than provide things to the general public to be aiding and abetting criminals, you must also knowingly be doing so. Otherwise anyone who sold trucks could be arrested for selling a truck used by ISIS, or selling shoes (as used by ISIS).
      • You're right, but unfortunately that logic doesn't apply to large corporations, I mean countries. Trucks may be used by ISIS, but it's the weapons/explosives that are causing all the problems. Even though we hear a lot about RPGs, and how easy they are to make, someone has to be selling them the explosives included. Someone's selling them guns and ammo.

        I wonder how they're making these transactions, because surely it's not just one little truck delivering a small amount of.... oh wait, I see what you
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @08:54PM (#52800321)

    If ISIS using Twitter is no different to ISIS using a satellite phone, walkie talkies etc, ""all of which terrorists use for private communications in order to further their extremist agendas." then why aren't the creators of those devices involved in this litigation?

    • by dfeifer ( 973821 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @09:03PM (#52800351)
      They could also use a private team speak / ventrilo / etc. server but I would hazard a guess that most of it is done via throw away cell phones.. so let's take away Mobil phones from everyone? Really this whole speiel sounds a lot like the whole " gateway drug" dispute.
    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      How is this different than the pm of vBulletin or any of the other many sites that allow their users to pm each other?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @10:12PM (#52800605)

        Twitter has demonstrated the ability and the will to censor or ban users they do not like for speech they find unacceptable. They have failed to ban ISIS members and have failed to censor them, therefore they find ISIS acceptable.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Twitter has much more money that could be awarded to the plaintiff, that's the difference.

      • Exactly this. I run a small computer help forum on the side. Two terrorists could easily create accounts and PM each other with plans to blow up something and I'd never ban their accounts because I'd never see the messages. Technically speaking, I can look in the database and read all of the messages, but I never do this unless there's some really out-of-the-ordinary event. I might have done this one time while looking into a troll account.

        By the plantiff's argument, I'm providing aid to ISIS by running a f

    • Sue the U.S. postal service!!! Terrorists can send hidden messages to each other, across the border and within our cities and towns!!!
    • They all probably contain some piece of legalese in the product license or EULA indicating that it is illegal to use them for purposes of terrorism (famously the iTunes EULA [apple.com] contains an agreement not to use the software to develop nuclear weapons) or in extreme cases the government may even forbid sale to that country if the actors are state-sponsored.

      I suppose it's more difficult in the case of Twitter since they're a service instead of a product. Once someone comes into possession of a walkie talkie th
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Well I think there is a fairly critical difference between a device like a walkie where its hardware and once its left the manufacturer/sellers hands they real have no control over it.

      A satellite or mobile phone is much more like twitter in that there is an associated server. The Phone companies though are designated common carriers because we all recognize they can't reasonably know a head of time if someone is going to use their services to do something illegal.

      However even with that said if someone sold

  • Other IM services (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eristone ( 146133 ) * <slashdot@casaichiban.com> on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @09:08PM (#52800369) Homepage

    So they hold Twitter responsible, but not Skype (Microsoft), Yahoo, AOL, or any of the other companies that offer IM-type or bulletin board type services where information can be passed? Hell - with a little planning, a Wikipedia article edit could be used as a communication channel, not to mention the talk portion where editing an article is discussed. Or even Slashdot - read at -1 and find your messages for the Kettle Run on the next anniversary.

    • Well now that Twitter has started to actively banning accounts that they feel are abusive they have less of a leg to stand on. Why can they ban people harassing celebrities, but not ISIS accounts? They opened a can of worms. Good riddance.
    • Twitter DMs are like two spies standing on a bridge in Prague exchanging packets. For that matter, the same thing happens when Grandma "likes" a picture of your cat.
    • Deep pockets = Someone worth suing. Tying them to it is another issue, it doesn't matter how insignificantly connected the company is. This is about money. Daesh does use Twitter, it's an open free platform designed to be compatible with SMS. But I'm sure daesh also uses a ton of other recruiting methods using all kinds of technology. I suppose what this lawsuit wants is that Twitter either filter every single tweet or we turn the friggen internet off. It's why their suit will fail.

      Twitter is a common carri

    • There are a couple of possible explanations:

      As others have pointed out, Twitter does engage in censorship, which might make it ineligible for safe harbour provisions (which require that you do not actively take a role in the content of the communication that you host).

      They are a company that doesn't have as much experience in litigation. Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL have all been involved in enough lawsuits that they keep a warehouse full of lawyers to airdrop on anyone with a stupid-looking lawsuit. T

    • So they hold Twitter responsible, but not Skype (Microsoft), Yahoo, AOL, or any of the other companies that offer IM-type or bulletin board type services where information can be passed? Hell - with a little planning, a Wikipedia article edit could be used as a communication channel, not to mention the talk portion where editing an article is discussed. Or even Slashdot - read at -1 and find your messages for the Kettle Run on the next anniversary.

      Why stop there? Sue ICANN.

  • by dj.delorie ( 3368 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @09:12PM (#52800385) Homepage

    Lawsuits are pending for manufacturers of cell phones, walkie talkies, regular phones, paper, pencils, pens, and tin cans with string between them.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2016 @09:40PM (#52800479) Journal

    ISIS (and other terrorist groups) killed 19 Americans last year. Total. Cops killed 1,125 Americans last year (it's actually a higher number, since the US gov't doesn't keep track of Americans killed by cops).

    Americans with guns killed over 35,000 Americans last year.

    But ISIS is used as the excuse to take away people's rights.

    • This is really it.

      In what way is ISIS an "existential threat" to the USA, if toddlers with guns kill roughly three times as many citizens?

      • Americans like having existential threats, it saves them from having to think. Buying politicians only works if the voters don't keep track of what they do, meaning voters are directly responsible for the awful shape the USA is in.
        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          I don't know why they're the target but France has been hit by numerous attacks that ISIS have laid claim to. Its not that big of a stretch to think that they could hit the US if they wanted to. Not all attacks have to be the twin towers to get noticed.

          That said, there's a reason we call them "terrorists" and not "murderers" (though sometimes both of course.) Their goal isn't to make us dead. Their goal is to make us fear. And on that tack, they've had enormous success in the US and elsewhere.

          It only t

      • Toddlers w/ guns aren't deliberately trying to cause mayhem. Toddlers w/ guns ain't trying to subvert the US constitution. Toddlers w/ guns ain't trying to get everybody to recognize their supremacy.

        ISIS on the other hand has grand goals. They consider themselves a caliphate, and want to bring the entire world under Islamic law. Initially, the thought was that they were just Iraqi & Syrian Sunnis fighting for a fair shake, but that's been rapidly disproven. It's not like they'd be satisfied w/ th

        • There's always people who have grand goals of conquering or subverting or destroying the US. If I worried about every group that had it in for me as a US citizen, I'd never get any sleep.

          Find me some people who not only want world conquest but have some ability to get it started near Western civilization, and I might start to worry.

          Also, have you known toddlers? Lots of them are in it for the mayhem and for the attention.

    • ISIS (and other terrorist groups) killed 19 Americans last year. Total.

      That figure sounds a bit low. Does it include all the service men killed in action fighting ISIS overseas?

      • That figure sounds a bit low. Does it include all the service men killed in action fighting ISIS overseas?

        Yes, it includes them. There were four Americans killed in Afghanistan and two Americans killed in Iraq in 2015.

    • Americans with guns killed over 35,000 Americans last year.

      Citation? Murders, murder/suicide, and accidental gun deaths only accounted for about 13K deaths in the USA in 2015.

      • Citation? Murders, murder/suicide, and accidental gun deaths only accounted for about 13K deaths in the USA in 2015.

        Sorry, as I said, my statistics were from 2013 (see citation above).

    • Yes, surely all those people the cops shot were innocent victims that weren't going for the cop's weapon, or didn't already had one of their own and weren't threatening them or anyone else in any way, or weren't resisting arrest, or any combination of the above.
      OTOH, I agree the suit against Twitter holds no water, it smacks of desperation.
  • how about all the other instant messaging, or IRC, or what about internet forums, email, messages can be passed & forth a multitude of ways, laying the blame all on Twitter is a load of horse shit to me, i hope the Twitter lawyers wins this, and the plaintiffs are blacklisted from any litigation ever again
  • I don't like Twitter. However, to state that it's offered in support of terrorism is stupid. It's offered to everyone. It's service is neutral.
  • ... anyone manufacturing and/or selling a firearm to the public in the United States must reasonably expect at least one of their weapons to be used by terrorists, just as was the case in San Bernardino.

    Are the plaintiffs against Twitter in this case arguing that since it is possibly for even *one* gun that is sold to a civilian in the US to be used for crime and/or terrorist activities, then all gun sales should be banned?

    Please note - I'm not a US citizen and don't generally support the idea behind
  • Hello

    The funny thing is that equipping a target with a satellite phone improves the ability to identify them. In the case of a journalist and photographer [eff.org] team operating in Syria a few years ago, it was their satellite phone that allowed their location to be triangulated and subsequently attacked.

    I would think it would not be too difficult to come up with some interesting usage patterns of DMs (sending messages in languages commonly used by ISIS, using certain phrases common to ISIS, geoIP location, access

  • Given some of Twitter's investors and their lack of removal of ISIS/pro-Islamist material - while eagerly purging sources of inconvenient truths (e.g. Milo Y.) - should be enough proof of their loyalties.

  • If ISIS members are talking to each other, we better sue the air for carrying the air waves! But seriously, can't Twitter take basic steps to not allow ISIS propaganda on Twitter and also try and block them from using DMs?
  • Enemies tend to use almost anything they can find against you. The notion that one could sue Twitter is half witted nonsense. A 40 year old, land line telephone could also aid terrorists. Cell phones must be a dandy for terrorists and GPS obviously can aid bad people as well. Any drunk can use an automobile to commit a mass murder. The idea that the selling of a device or service that may, at times, be misused by bad people should not make a company liable. If my neighbor decides to commit suicide

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