Eighth Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Copeland v. Twitter

This is another 1-800 LAW FIRM lawsuit against social media providers for allegedly materially supporting terrorists. Like the others, it fails. In light of the Ninth Circuit’s Fields opinion, dismissing a similar suit on proximate cause grounds, this opinion doesn’t break any new ground. The court’s overview pretty much says it all (note: the truncation of the first paragraph appears to be a mistake in the court’s opinion):

Sean and Brodie Copeland were intentionally struck and killed by a truck driven by “ISIS soldier” Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel (Bouhlel) in Nice France in July 2016 (Nice Attack). This case, brought by Kimberly Copeland, the widow of Sean Copeland and mother of Brodie Copeland, alleges that defendants Twitter, Inc., Google LLC, and Facebook, Inc. failed to prevent foreign terrorist organizations and specially designated global terrorist groups from using their social media platforms. Broadly, Copeland argues that defendants’ social media platforms played an essential role in the rise of ISIS. Narrowly, her First Amended Complaint (FAC) alleges that defendants’ social media sites and tools provided material support, resources, and services to ISIS and that those actions led to the deaths of [sic–this is how it ends in the court’s PDF]

The theories of direct liability under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) asserted by Copeland are precluded by the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Fields v. Twitter, Inc., 881 F.3d 739 (9th Cir. 2018), affirming my order dismissing that case. Following Fields, materially similar direct liability claims have been rejected by numerous judges in this District and elsewhere. See Taamneh v. Twitter, Inc., No. 17-CV-04107-EMC, 2018 WL 5729232 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2018); Cain v. Twitter Inc., No. 17-CV-02506-JD, 2018 WL 4657275 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 24, 2018); Gonzalez v. Google, Inc., 16-CV-03282-DMR, 2018 WL 3872781 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 15, 2018) (Gonzalez II); Gonzalez v. Google, Inc., 282 F. Supp. 3d 1150 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2017) (Gonzalez I); Pennie v. Twitter, Inc., 281 F. Supp. 3d 874 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2017); see also Crosby v. Twitter, Inc., 303 F. Supp. 3d 564 (E.D. Mich. March 30, 2018). The same courts have also dismissed the indirect liability (aiding and abetting) claims after specifically considered the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) amendments to the ATA. Cf. Siegel v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A., No. 17CV6593 (DLC), 2018 WL 3611967, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. July 27, 2018) (dismissing indirect, aiding and abetting claims against a bank who services were used by terrorists).

The allegations here are materially similar to those alleged in the cases identified above (if not weaker in terms of the alleged connections between specific terrorist acts and terrorists and defendants’ social media platforms). I will follow Fields and apply the “direct” proximate cause standard under the ATA for direct liability. Under that standard, the allegations in the FAC cannot support proximate cause as a matter of law. I also agree with and follow the analyses of the courts identified above with respect to JASTA and aiding and abetting liability–the allegations in the FAC do not support aiding and abetting liability as a matter of law. Finally, the state law tort claims fail for a similar failure to allege facts supporting proximate cause. Because Copeland’s counsel was not able to identify facts that could be asserted to get around these adverse decisions, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED and plaintiff’s claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

I’ve lost track of the number of 1-800 LAW FIRM suits on appeal, but I expect this will become another one.

Case citation: Copeland v. Twitter, Inc., 2018 WL 6251384 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 29, 2018)

Prior Blog Posts:

Seventh Different Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Material Support to Terrorists” Fails–Taamneh v. Twitter
Another Social Media “Material Support to Terrorists” Lawsuit Fails–Cain v. Twitter
“Material Support for Terrorists” Lawsuit Against YouTube Fails Again–Gonzalez v. Google
Fifth Court Rejects ‘Material Support for Terrorism’ Claims Against Social Media Sites–Crosby v. Twitter
Twitter Didn’t Cause ISIS-Inspired Terrorism–Fields v. Twitter
Section 230 Again Preempts Suit Against Facebook for Supporting Terrorists–Force v. Facebook
Fourth Judge Says Social Media Sites Aren’t Liable for Supporting Terrorists–Pennie v. Twitter
Another Court Rejects ‘Material Support To Terrorists’ Claims Against Social Media Sites–Gonzalez v. Google
Facebook Defeats Lawsuit Over Material Support for Terrorists–Cohen v. Facebook
Twitter Defeats ISIS “Material Support” Lawsuit Again–Fields v. Twitter
Section 230 Immunizes Twitter From Liability For ISIS’s Terrorist Activities–Fields v. Twitter