A US appeals court has rejected an effort to hold Twitter liable for the death of two Americans in an ISIS-linked shooting.
The court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling, which dismissed the lawsuit for neglecting to show a direct connection between the shooting and ISIS’s presence on Twitter.
The case concerns the 2015 killings of two US government contractors, Lloyd Fields and James Creach, who were gunned down in Jordan. The shooter, Anwar Abu Zaid, was part of a secret terrorist cell associated with ISIS, which later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Widows of the victims contend Twitter played a role in the killings, by giving ISIS a platform to recruit new followers. The lawsuit claims the terrorist group created at least 79 official ISIS accounts on Twitter by December 2014. In addition, ISIS used Twitter’s direct messaging feature to raise funds and plan operations. All of which helped the terrorist group attract over 30,000 foreign recruits, the lawsuit added.
Twitter disagreed, of course, and in 2016, a federal district court dismissed the case; “There are no facts indicating that Abu Zaid’s attack was in any way impacted, helped by, or the result of ISIS’s presence on the social network,” it said. On Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed.
At most, the lawsuit merely accuses Twitter of providing “material support” to ISIS to help the terrorist group grow and plan attacks, according to the opinion from one of the judges.
The lawsuit requested damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which forbids anyone from providing material supports to groups like ISIS. But the judges concluded that the law wasn’t designed to remedy every “ripple” a terrorist act can trigger.
A lawyer for the widows said they’re disappointed in the ruling. “ISIS used Twitter accounts to amass the resources needed for carrying out numerous terrorist attacks, including the November 9, 2015 shooting in Amman, Jordan,” Joshua Arisohn said in an email. The plaintiffs are weighing other legal options, he added.
So far, Twitter hasn’t commented on the ruling. Others parties such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation also argued against the lawsuit, saying it would prevent Twitter and internet companies from hosting controversial topics from unpopular speakers.