- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2017

Relatives of victims killed by an Islamic State-inspired couple in San Bernardino, California, sued Google, Twitter and Facebook in federal court Wednesday for allegedly providing material support to the terrorist group prior to the duo’s deadly 2015 rampage.

“For years, Defendants have knowingly and recklessly provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits,” attorneys for the relatives alleged Wednesday, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

“Without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible.”

The latest complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles against the internet giants is hardly the only litigation brought lately over their platforms’ alleged part in propagating extremism: Keith Altman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, similarly sued all three companies in December for allegedly providing material support to ISIS prior to a June 2016 mass shooting in Orlando attributed to an ISIS-inspired gunman. With that suit still pending, Mr. Altman opened a new front Wednesday against the internet companies, charging them for a separate, ISIS-inspired outburst.

Federal investigators say Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 22 others during a December 2015 rampage in San Bernardino. Mr. Altman filed Wednesday’s lawsuit on behalf of relatives of three of the 14 individuals killed by the couple: Sierra Clayborn, Tin Nguyen and Nicholas Thalasinos.

“Even if Farook and Malik had never been directly in contact with ISIS, ISIS’ use of social media directly influenced their actions on the day of the San Bernardino massacre,” the latest lawsuit alleges.

Google and Twitter declined to comment on the litigation, Reuters reported; Facebook issued a statement, saying: “There is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity.”

In a separate venue, meanwhile, attorneys for the three companies filed a motion to dismiss the Orlando lawsuit last month citing a safe-harbor provision contained under the federal Communications Decency Act “establish[ing] that user-generated content on digital platforms cannot be used in proceedings against the platforms,” Fortune reported.

If allowed to proceed, the Orlando suit “would have staggering consequences, exposing every online platform to possible liability for terrorist violence anywhere in the world, at any time, simply because the terrorists who committed the attack may have been loosely affiliated with some of the platforms’ billions of users,” the companies argued.

While social media has been widely blamed for years for enabling terrorists to rapidly expand within and beyond the Middle East, much to the chagrin of government officials and Silicon Valley alike, the issue was recognized on Capitol Hill as recently as Wednesday this week when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, acknowledged that extremists continue to evade authorities in part by using social media platform inadequately monitored by counterterrorism officials.

“Would the FBI benefit from knowing when technology companies see terrorist plotting and other illegal activity online?” Ms. Feinstein asked.

FBI Director James B. Comey agreed it would, and said he’s happy to work with the Senate Judiciary Committee at achieving as much.

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