Families of Pulse shooting victims sue Facebook, Twitter, Google

Families of June's Orlando shooting victims file lawsuit against sites for promoting, funding ISIS terror.

Chana Roberts ,

Friends and family of victims of Orlando gayclub shooting react outside police station
Friends and family of victims of Orlando gayclub shooting react outside police station

Families of three Orlando nighclub shooting victims filed on Monday a federal lawsuit blaming Facebook, Twitter, and Google for the shooting attack, claiming the internet sites promoted and funded terrorism.

The goal, according to families of victims Tevin Crosby, 25; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; and Juan Guerrero, 22, is a court ruling which says the sites violated the US Anti-Terrorism Act. They are also seeking monetary damages.

Since 2013, ISIS has recruited over 30,000 followers through Google, Facebook, and Twitter. ISIS also raises money through social media sites, and Google shares ad revenue with ISIS.

"ISIS' use of social media directly influenced [Mateen’s] actions on the night of the Orlando massacre. WIthout Twitter, Facebook, and Google-owned YouTube, ISIS would not have been able to radicalize Omar Mateen leading ​to the deadly attack in Orlando," the Michigan federal suit says. "Without Defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible.

"Facebook, Twitter, and Google provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds and attract new recruits....this material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out, numerous terrorist attacks."

FBI Director James Comey said he’s "highly confident that this killer was radicalized at least in part through the Internet."

However, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act absolves websites of responsibility for "third-party content" (such as ISIS') advertised or posted on their site.

Despite this, the families' lawyer, Keith Altman insists the internet giants should be held accountable, since the third-party posts are paired with advertisements. He said this pairing of user-generated content with advertisements constitutes new content, and the sites should be held responsible for it.

He also said the ISIS is "dependent of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to terrorize."

"I think public opinion will simply not tolerate these companies taking this laissez-faire attitude anymore," Altman said. "The money is a secondary issue. This is about other families not having to bury their loved ones."

A Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement, "There is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity....We are committed to providing a service where people feel safe when using Facebook. We sympathize with the victims and their families."

She also claimed Facebook takes "swift action" to remove incitement when it is reported.

Twitter and Google declined to comment.

However, they did say earlier in December they would coordinate with each other and share information, in order to more efficiently remove "extremist" content.

50 people were killed and 53 others wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Florida in June when 29-year-old Omar Mateen went on a killing spree. Mateen, who had sworn allegiance to ISIS just prior to the attack, was killed during a gunfight with SWAT officers later that night.

This is not the first lawsuit Facebook is facing. Israeli civil rights organization Shurat Hadin has charged Facebook with aiding terror. The case, which was filed in a New York court, has not yet been resolved.