The father of one of the women killed in the Paris attacks in November has brought litigation against a variety of tech firms, holding businesses like Google, Facebook and Twitter responsible for providing “material support” to the violent extremists.
According to Reynaldo Gonzalez, the tech firms “knowingly permitted” the Islamic State group, called “ISIS” in his legal action, to use their services to recruit, raise money and spread “extremist propaganda.”
“For years, [the companies] have knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits,” stated the court papers filed by Gonzalez’s representation in California on Tuesday.
“This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS, and has enabled it to carry out numerous terrorist attacks, including the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, where more than 125 were killed, including Nohemi Gonzalez.”
Reynaldo Gonzalez’s daughter Nohemi was one of the 130 people killed when extremists attacked Paris’ Batacian concert hall, the national football stadium in Saint-Denis, and a spattering of bars and restaurants.
According to Gonzalez, “the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible” without Twitter, Facebook and Youtube (Google-owned) as they have acted as the means through which the violent extremist group could spread its ideals.
Gonzalez quoted the Brookings Instritution research as stating that ISIS “exploited social media, most notoriously Twitter, to send its propaganda and messaging out to the world and to draw in people vulnerable to radicalization.”
The companies have responded by asserting that they have policies against extremist material and acted within the boundaries of the law. Twitter stated that it had “teams around the world actively investigating reports of rule violations, identifying violating conduct, and working with law-enforcement entities when appropriate.”
Facebook stated that if the company saw “evidence of a threat of imminent harm or a terror attack,” it always contacted law enforcement.
Google declined to comment on the pending legal action, but noted that it had “clear policies prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence and quickly removed videos violating these policies when flagged by our users.”
US law tends to not hold internet companies responsible for the material that their users post on their networks. According to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the government allows for a “safe harbour” for companies like Twitter and Facebook, claiming that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Whether this legal argument will be enough to free the tech firms of liability in this case remains to be seen.
According to Ari Kresch, one of the lawyers representing Gonzalez, “This complaint is not about what ISIS’s messages say… it is about Google, Twitter, and Facebook allowing ISIS to use their social media networks for recruitment and operations.”
According to the complaint, YouTube shared revenue with ISIS when advertisements ran on the group’s videos.