A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing Twitter, Google and Facebook of radicalizing Micah Johnson, the U.S. Army veteran who killed five police officers during a July 2016 ambush in Dallas.
Sgt. Demetrick Pennie, a Dallas police officer who responded to the attack, sued the three internet companies in January for allegedly providing material support to the designated terrorist group Hamas and effectively facilitating Johnson’s radicalization.
The father of Patrick Zamarripa, a Dallas police officer killed in the shooting, joined the suit in June.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero rejected the case after their attorney failed to show a connection between Hamas and the shooting, according to his 23-page order granting motion to dismiss filed Monday.
“Although Plaintiffs’ theory of how Defendants support Hamas is relatively clear, the connection between that support and the Dallas shooting is not,” he wrote in the ruling. “Absent plausible allegations that Hamas itself was in some way a substantial factor in the attack, there is no basis to conclude that any support provided by defendants to Hamas was a substantial factor.”
Plaintiffs argued in earlier filings that Twitter, Google and Facebook enabled Hamas by allowing its members and affiliates to use the companies’ social media platforms despite being designated under U.S. law as a terrorist organization.
Nonetheless, plaintiffs “do not meaningfully allege that Hamas itself carried out the attack, or even that it intended for such an attack to occur,” the judge responded Monday. “Instead, they allege that other Palestinians and Palestinian organizations (whom Plaintiffs vaguely characterize as ‘Hamas sympathizers and member’) expressed general support for groups protesting police violence against African Americans … including some such groups that have staged protests or rallies where speakers or demonstrators called for killing police officers.”
“Aside from the conclusory assertion that ‘Johnson was radicalized, in part, by reviewing postings of Hamas and other terrorist groups’ … the only specific allegations regarding Johnson’s use of Defendants’ products are that he ‘liked’ the Facebook pages of Black Nationalist organizations such as the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), Nation of Islam, and Black Riders Liberation Army,” the judge wrote. “
“Plaintiffs do not allege any connection between Hamas and any of those groups,” the ruling said.
Johnson fired on a group of police during the end of a demonstration held in downtown Dallas in response to officer-involved shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana that resulted in the deaths of black civilians. Five officers were killed and nine others injured before authorities ultimately detonated a bomb killing Johnson. He was 25.
Federal judges have ruled previously in similar lawsuits that the U.S. Communications Decency Act prohibits internet companies from being held liable for material posted by third-party users.