Families of three victims killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this year are now suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google (owner of YouTube). They claim the gunman responsible for the shooting, Omar Mateen, was radicalized through the propaganda found in social media channels.
Their lawsuit is based on a federal law that allows the family of victims of terrorist attacks to sue anybody who provided “material support” to the terrorists.
Terrorists utilizing social media to spread their agenda internationally is not a new strategy. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube have been making plans to combat the spread of this information.
This also is not the first time someone sued a tech company of providing support for terrorists. Earlier this year following the Paris attacks, the family of a Californian college student who was killed in the attack also sued Facebook, Google, and Twitter for providing “material support.” In January, Twitter was sued by a widow of an American killed in Jordan, also accusing the company of online propaganda.
Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act (1996) protected tech companies in the past from this type of lawsuit. The act says as long as the company is merely a host of the information and not commenting or endorsing the material, it can’t be responsible for the information.
The argument from the family’s lawyer is that this is no longer a valid excuse, since today’s social media creates algorithms to curate user content which can be considered company interference.
If the families win the case, it could radically change the systems around social media.