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San Bernardino Shooting Victims' Family Members Sue Tech Companies: Here's Why

5 May 2017, 1:05 pm EDT By Steve Bowman Tech Times
Families of San Bernardino shooting victims filed a lawsuit against Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They accused the tech companies of providing "material support" to the Islamic State to spread its extremist views.   ( David McNew | Getty Images )

Families of three victims killed in the 2015 San Bernardino, California, shooting are suing Google, Facebook, and Twitter over claims that the tech companies knowingly allowed the Islamic State to share its propaganda on the respective social media and web platforms.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Wednesday, May 3. The 32-page complaint states that the three companies intentionally permitted the Islamic State to create a staggering online presence.

The victims' families claim that by allowing the Islamic State to use their respective platforms to spread extremist propaganda and take in recruits, the companies gave the group "material support." This promoted attacks similar to the San Bernardino massacre.

What Does The Lawsuit Say?

For the unfamiliar, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik carried out the San Bernardino attack, which took place on Dec. 2, 2015, at the Regional Center. The couple open fire on the unsuspecting crowd and killed 14 people, as well as left 22 wounded.

"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," Sierra Clayborn, Nicholas Thalasinos, and Tin Nguyen charged Facebook, Twitter, and Google in the complaint.

The lawsuit also states that the "material support" these social media platforms provided to the Islamic State to help upload its extremist views, aided in the radicalization of Farook and Malik.

However, Farook and Malik acted on their own accord. The two were never in direct contact with Islamic State, but the content the extremist group shared online influenced their actions.

"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 lawsuit asserts.

The lawsuit held Google, Facebook, and Twitter responsible in "aiding and abetting" the acts related to international terrorism and many wrongful deaths, which the group's members or individuals — influenced by Islamic State's views — carried out directly or indirectly.

Google, Facebook, And Twitter: Response

The three tech companies are yet to comment on the lawsuit. A lawsuit of this kind in not the first that been filed in the court of law. Similar lawsuits carrying almost identical accusations against Facebook, Twitter, and Google were previously filed in courts across the country.

However, the courts dismissed them under the Communications Decency Act. This particular act gives immunity to online providers from liability over a user's posts. In response to previous lawsuits filed along the same lines, the three tech companies stated that they are sympathetic toward the victims; however, they are not liable for what transpired.

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