When you ask law enforcement about social media in the wake of a tragedy, the answers can be mixed. Some praise the opportunity to share information quickly and easily. Others say it provides a platform for killers to seek fame. Case in point, the Orlando terrorist stopped to check Facebook multiple times during the attack, to see if he was trending yet.
Basis of Lawsuit
And now the father of a woman killed in the Paris massacre is coming after Facebook, Twitter and Google, arguing the tech giants supported extremists. Reynaldo Gonzalez’s daughter, Nohemi, was killed in the Paris attacks, and his lawsuit claims these social media companies offered “material support” to the terrorists.
According to Gonzalez’s complaint, the companies “knowingly permitted” ISIS to “recruit members, raise money, and spread propaganda via social media.
This is not the first case of this kind to be brought before the courts. Earlier this year a woman whose husband was killed in Jordan in a terrorist attack sued Twitter using similar language. However, this case carries a much higher profile both nationally and internationally. Because of the connection with the Paris attack and the finger pointing at all three major social media platforms, this case is likely to receive more attention.
Social Media Giants’ Response to Lawsuits
Facebook and Twitter have both gone on the record to argue this case has no merit, they have sufficient protections in place, and are actively working to identify and punish violations when appropriate. Gonzalez isn’t buying that. But will the courts?
Legal experts are not willing to say whether they think the case will have merit, but if it does go to trial, expect a flurry of similar cases to follow.
Implications of the Lawsuit
It’s been a persistent theme in media coverage of the wars in the Middle East. ISIS does well on social media. They recruit and promote and generally manipulate across multiple forums. Everyone seems to be aware of this, but most social media platforms say there’s not much they can do about it unless the group or post is in direct violation of their policies. To do more than they are, they argue, would cause them to violate the rights and privileges of hundreds of millions of other users.
The consumer public comes down on both sides of this argument. Some are adamantly opposed even to the current restrictions on social media. Others would willingly accept more restrictions in order to hinder ISIS. Regardless of what happens in court, social media will face a strong PR battle as this case goes forward and in the aftermath.
David Milberg is an experienced credit analyst in NYC.