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The Courts Communications Social Networks Twitter

Twitter Can't Be Blamed For 2015 ISIS-Linked Killings, Court Rules (sfgate.com) 49

A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled yesterday that Twitter is not legally responsible for the deaths of two Americans in an ISIS-linked attack in Jordan, even though the Islamic State may have used its access to Twitter to spread its message of terrorism and recruit new members. The decision upholds a 2016 ruling on the same case, which was filed by the families of the victims of the terrorist attack. SFGate reports: "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," the suit said. The Americans, Lloyd Fields Jr. and James Creach, were former police officers working for U.S. companies training law enforcement officers in Jordan. They were among five people shot to death in November 2015 by a Jordanian police captain, later identified as a member of an Islamic State terror cell. Islamic State said it was responsible for killing the "American crusaders."

As an example of the Twitter activity, the women's lawyers showed a snapshot of an undated tweet, allegedly from Islamic State, that declared "there is no life without jihad." As of December 2014, the suit said, the terror group had 70,000 Twitter accounts, of which 79 were "official" Islamic State accounts. Only recently, the lawyers said, had Twitter changed its rules to prohibit threats of violence or terrorism and ordered the suspension of accounts promoting terrorism. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the suit failed to show a direct connection between Islamic State's use of Twitter and the fatal attack. "At most, the (suit) establishes that Twitter's alleged provision of material support to ISIS facilitated the organization's growth and ability to plan and execute terrorist acts," Judge Milan Smith said in the 3-0 ruling, which upheld a federal judge's dismissal of the suit earlier.

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Twitter Can't Be Blamed For 2015 ISIS-Linked Killings, Court Rules

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  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @08:27PM (#56051759)

    in a us court! not in others

  • by Ayano ( 4882157 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @08:31PM (#56051785)
    For delivering letters laced with anthrax. You can't have the messenger also be your body guard or poison tester.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday February 01, 2018 @10:09PM (#56052287)
      The court decided that "the suit failed to show a direct connection between Islamic State's use of Twitter and the fatal attack." In other words, if there had been a direct connection between the use of Twitter and the fatal attack, then Twitter may in fact have been liable.

      The distinction between this case and your Post Office example is common carrier status. The USPS is a common carrier, so they weren't liable for delivering letters with anthrax. But if they had had a policy of opening letters and packages, and refusing to deliver certain types of mail based on their own standards, then they could be liable for failing to stop the letters with anthrax.
      • If Twitter is agnostic towards its customers and allows anyone and everyone to use their services, then they are a common carrier and not responsible for illegal uses of their service. This is how Twitter would have to behave for your Post Office analogy to work.
      • If Twitter bans customers over content they post or who they follow or retweet, or selectively deletes tweets based on criteria they choose (not the customer), then they have willingly given up common carrier status and are potentially liable for the content that gets posted via their service. This is how the court considered Twitter.

      A more apt Post Office analogy would be if the USPS regularly opened and read people's mail and refused certain shipments, but they did not stop delivery of a newsletter encouraging poisoning people with anthrax. And someone had been killed by an anthrax attack not delivered via the USPS.

      • by nasch ( 598556 )

        I believe CDA section 230 should give immunity to Twitter for the speech of their users, despite any moderation they choose to undertake. I don't think there's an exception for inciting violence.

  • ... promoting sexual harassment [youtube.com].

    Donald Trump On Tape: I Grab Women "By The Pussy”

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Like any useful tool, some people will choose to (ab)use it for destructive ends.

    Don't blame the tool maker.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 01, 2018 @08:38PM (#56051819)

    If Twitter was run as a free speech platform, where users were responsible for their own Tweets and where Tweets were only censored with a court order, then Twitter would have no responsibility. However, Twitter is run as a 'safe' platform and actively removes speech it finds 'offensive' or 'hateful'. By failing to remove these ISIS Tweets, Twitter was effectively endorsing them and should therefore be held responsible for their content.

    The postal services and phone services are not held responsible for the content of letters or phone calls because they do not censor any letters or calls, and do not try to determine what is right and wrong. Twitter does, and therefore is responsible for any content on its platform.

    I would like to know how the lawyers presented their case. I assume they did a very bad job to have lost so badly, because Twitter are without doubt guilty.

  • "Only recently, the lawyers said, had Twitter changed its rules to prohibit threats of violence or terrorism and ordered the suspension of accounts promoting terrorism."

    Only recently

  • Twitter has shown that they are very good at removing content they don't approve of. This should be no different and reasonably burdensome.

  • Do humans have free will? Or are we compelled to believe everything we read on twitter, and act accordingly?

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