Ninth Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Clayborn v. Twitter
This is the ninth different case where a court concludes that social media services aren’t liable for providing “material support” to terrorists. This particular litigation involves the San Bernardino shooting, but the underlying incident doesn’t matter much. Instead, the court is governed by the Ninth Circuit’s Fields v. Twitter case, which held that social media services aren’t proximate causes of terrorist attacks. That ruling pretty much dictates this dismissal. So apologies for my light commentary on this case. However, after blogging so many of these cases, there really isn’t much new to say. Here are a few choice blockquotes from the opinion:
The plaintiffs’ direct-liability claims fail under Fields. The alleged links between ISIS and the shooting are ISIS’s allegedly claiming credit after the fact, Malik’s pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Farook’s and Malik’s alleged radicalization after they were exposed to ISIS content on the defendants’ online platforms. These allegations do not establish a direct relationship between the defendants’ acts and the plaintiffs’ injuries. ISIS’s alleged claiming of responsibility after the fact does not establish the direct relationship. Malik’s pledging allegiance to ISIS also does not plausibly plead a direct relationship between these defendants and the plaintiffs’ injuries. Finally, the alleged radicalization by exposure to online content does not establish proximate cause. “Nothing in § 2333 indicates that Congress intended to provide a remedy to every person reached by these ripples [of harm that flow from the defendants’ provision of communication services]; instead, Congress intentionally used the ‘by reason of’ language to limit recovery.”
The plaintiffs suggest that this last allegation — the radicalization by exposure to online content — distinguishes this case from Fields. It does not. Fields is explicit on the issue: the possible ripples of harm are not the direct relationship between the social-media platforms and the injuries that is required for proximate cause. A contrary conclusion poses boundless litigation risk and is not tenable given how interconnected communication services are with modern economic and social life. In sum, the alleged radicalization through exposure to online content does not establish the necessary direct relationship between the defendants’ conduct and the attacks on the victims.
Moreover, the plaintiffs do not plead any facts that show any direct recruitment of the attackers by ISIS through the platforms or their radicalization by actual exposure to ISIS content on the defendants’ sites. Absent concrete allegations such as these, other courts have held post-Fields that plaintiffs do not plausibly plead a direct ATA claim by alleging only that the social-media platforms radicalize users.
First, the plaintiffs do not plausibly plead that ISIS “committed, planned, or authorized” the San Bernardino attack. The three ties to ISIS (as discussed above) are ISIS’s allegedly claiming credit after the fact, Malik’s pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Farook’s and Malik’s alleged radicalization after they were exposed to ISIS content on the defendants’ online platforms….
Second, the plaintiffs do not plausibly plead that the defendants aided and abetted the San Bernardino shooters….Here — as in Copeland and Taamneh — there are allegations only that the defendants were generally aware that ISIS used their services. There are no allegations that they intended to further ISIS’s activities or “at least w[ere] ‘generally aware’ that, through [their] actions, the defendant[s] ‘w[ere] thereby playing a ‘role’ in the [organization’s] violent or life-endangering activities.” There are no allegations that the defendants played a role in any particular terrorist activity or provided substantial assistance.
In a footnote, the court expressly declines to analyze Section 230’s applicability.
The court dismisses the case with prejudice. If past practices hold, this case will be appealed imminently.
Case citation: Clayborn v. Twitter, Inc., 2018 WL 6839754 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 31, 2018)
Prior Blog Posts:
* Eighth Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Copeland v. Twitter
* 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