Families of Orlando victims sue Google, Facebook and Twitter for allegedly giving ISIS ‘material support’

The shooting at Pulse Nightclub on June 12 left 49 dead. Now the families of three victims are suing Facebook, Google and Twitter for allowing ISIS to radicalize online.
Image: drew angerer/ Getty Images

Google, Twitter and Facebook are being sued by the families of three victims killed in the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida in June that left 49 people dead.

The families of three fatally shot victims Tevin Crosby, Juan Ramon Guerrero and Javier Jorge-Reyes filed a lawsuit against Google, Twitter and Facebook on Monday alleging the tech companies provided “material support” for the radicalization of Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired shooter Omar Mateen and his horrific act of violence, Fox News reports.

The suit, filed Monday, points the finger directly at all three tech giants, saying they “knowingly and recklessly” allowed for accounts associated with ISIS to exist and allowed the extremist group “to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits.”

On June 12, Mateen opened fire on crowds of people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, in an attack that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The tragedy occurred just as other LGBT Pride parades and events were unfolding around the country that same weekend.

Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was radicalized by ISIS, like other terrorists, through the organization’s lively online activity and presence across social media, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Facebook, Google and Twitter are responsible for the spreading of information from ISIS and the way it has helped the group grow, the suit added.

“This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out, numerous terrorist attacks, including the June 12, 2016, attack in Orlando,” court records say.

A memorial takes place on June 16 after the mass shooting there killed 49 people.

Image: drew angerer/ Getty Images

Twitter has suspended ISIS-related accounts in the past, among the efforts of other platforms. An investigation by the New Republic found that darker corners of the web, like the lesser known social media site VKontakte, are more likely to host pro-ISIS activity than more mainstream platforms like Facebook.

“Many social media sites quickly shut down any pro-ISIS activity, meaning we found negligible amounts of pro-ISIS activity on Facebook, for instance,” the New Republic said.

But, as the suit alleges, there’s still pro-ISIS activity across the popular sites. Google is primarily involved through its ownership of Youtube, sometimes used by ISIS to post videos about its violence or destruction against opponents. Through the tweets, video posts, Facebook messaging and other online chats and activities of ISIS that still exist, these American tech companies are also responsible, the lawsuit alleges.

“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 suit says.

The families behind the lawsuit aren’t the only ones to point toward the implicit involvement of the social media platforms. Back in June, Twitter, Facebook and Google were also sued by the family of another terrorist attack victim, 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the Paris attacks.

Twitter and Facebook posts by groups and people associated with ISIS are some of the things specifically referenced in the lawsuit filed Monday. The extremist organization once posted a training video on Twitter called “Flames of War” that was retweeted and circulated across the web, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also refers to ISIS-related Twitter accounts with thousands of followers.

The lawsuit also refers to ISIS-related Twitter accounts with thousands of followers, some of which have been suspended.

The online world of the Islamic State is often referenced as one of its greatest weapons, particularly in seeking new recruits and spreading the word of violent radicalism.

“To an even greater degree than al-Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations, ISIL has persistently used the internet to communicate and spread its message,” Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director of the National Security Branch of the FBI, said during a hearing before the Department of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“From a Homeland perspective, it is ISILs widespread reach through the Internet and particularly social media which is most concerning as ISIL has aggressively employed this technology for its nefarious strategy,” Steinbach said. “ISIL blends traditional media platforms, glossy photos, in-depth articles, and social media campaigns that can go viral in a matter of seconds. No matter the format, the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.”

Requests for comment were not returned by time of publication from Google, Facebook or Twitter.

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