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Society

High Court Will Hear Social Media Terrorism Lawsuits

October 3, 2022

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear two cases seeking to hold social media companies financially responsible for terrorist attacks.

Relatives of people killed in terrorist attacks in France and Turkey had sued Google, Twitter, and Facebook. They accused the companies of helping terrorists spread their message and radicalize new recruits.

The court will hear the cases this term, which began Monday, with a decision expected before the court recesses for the summer, usually in late June. The court did not say when it would hear arguments, but the court has already filled its argument calendar for October and November.

One of the cases the justices will hear involves Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen studying in Paris. The Cal State Long Beach student was one of 130 people killed in Islamic State group attacks in November 2015. The attackers struck cafes, outside the French national stadium and inside the Bataclan theater. Gonzalez died in an attack at La Belle Equipe bistro.

Gonzalez’s relatives sued Google, which owns YouTube, saying the platform had helped the Islamic State group by allowing it to post hundreds of videos that helped incite violence and recruit potential supporters. Gonzalez’s relatives said that the company’s computer algorithms recommended those videos to viewers most likely to be interested in them.

But a judge dismissed the case and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Under U.S. law — specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — internet companies are generally exempt from liability for the material users post on their networks.

The other case the court agreed to hear involves Jordanian citizen Nawras Alassaf. He died in the 2017 attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul where a gunman affiliated with the Islamic State killed 39 people.

Alassaf’s relatives sued Twitter, Google and Facebook for aiding terrorism, arguing that the platforms helped the Islamic State grow and did not go far enough in trying to curb terrorist activity on their platforms. A lower court let the case proceed.

 

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