ISIS Killing People Isn't Twitter's Fault, Says Judge

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Today is not a great day for Twitter. BuzzFeed published a big exposé on the company’s failure to deal with abuse. But here’s a lil’ nugget of news that likely put a smile on Jack Dorsey’s face: A judge ruled that Twitter is not responsible for ISIS propaganda posted on the site. Yay!

A class action suit was filed against the company in January, after two American contractors were killed in a shooting spree in Jordan. Families of the victims accused Twitter of playing a central role in their deaths because ISIS uses Twitter as a platform to spread its propaganda and recruit new members.

In order for their complaint to be valid, the plaintiffs had to convince the judge that Twitter “knowingly provide[s] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.”


U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick wrote in his dismissal, “As horrific as these deaths were … Twitter cannot be treated as a publisher or speaker of Isis’s hateful rhetoric and is not liable under the facts alleged.”

Twitter says that the company is actively working to ban terrorists from using its platform.

“While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family’s terrible loss... Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear,” a Twitter spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.


The Associated Press notes that a similar lawsuit against Google, Facebook and Twitter, which was filed in June by the father of a man killed in the Paris attacks is currently making its way through the courts. The case alleges that the three companies “knowingly” let ISIS use their platforms to recruit new members.


In BuzzFeed’s exposé on Twitter’s failure to deal with abuse, a source told them that Twitter’s former general counsel Alexander Macgillivray once said, “Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party.” Hopefully that can be amended to “Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party... EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO ISIS.”

[Wall Street Journal]


Eve Peyser was the night editor at Gizmodo.

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I mean, this lawsuit was inherently dumb from the beginning. There are trillions of messages going through Twitter every day, expecting them to be able to just magically stop ISIS or other terrorist groups from sending messages or posting hate speech shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the service works.