Twitter Not Liable for Terrorist Use of Site, Appeals Court Says

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By Alexis Kramer

Twitter Inc. can’t be held liable for allegedly allowing the Islamic State group to use its social network to spread propaganda, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Jan. 31.

The appellate decision came amid ongoing congressional scrutiny of social media companies’ efforts to detect and remove extremist content.

Plaintiffs Tamara Fields and Heather Creach, whose family members were killed in a 2015 terrorist attack in Jordan, sued Twitter under the Anti-Terrorism Act. A federal district court in California dismissed the case pursuant to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online publishers from liability for their users’ content.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to show Twitter’s conduct directly led to their injuries.

The appeals court declined to weigh in on the extent that Section 230 protects social media companies from extremist content found on their sites. Federal district courts in 2017, citing Section 230, dismissed four complaints alleging social media provided services to terrorist groups, Bloomberg Law data show.

No Connection

The Ninth Circuit said the plaintiffs failed to show a link between Twitter’s alleged provision of support and their injuries, a requirement for liability under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The complaint at most shows that Twitter’s alleged provision of support to IS facilitated the organization’s growth and planning, the court said. But it doesn’t allege any connection between Twitter’s conduct and the victims’ deaths, the court said.

An attorney for the plaintiffs didn’t immediately respond to a Bloomberg Law request for comment.

The case is Fields v. Twitter Inc. , 9th Cir., No. 16-17165, 1/31/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com

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