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

This is the 10th different case where a judge has rejected allegations that Twitter and other social media services materially support terrorists. As with most of the others, the plaintiffs’ lawyers are Excolo Law and 1-800 LAWFIRM. I’ve blogged the other nine dismissals, so at this point, there’s not much new to say about this case. Most of the plaintiffs’ arguments have been rejected in prior cases, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers are building a thick wall of adverse precedent that has become nearly impenetrable.

This particular suit involves an ISIS terrorist attack in Barcelona, where a speeding truck was the primary weapon. On the ATA primary claims, the court says the allegations do not show proximate causation, and they are virtually indistinguishable from those rejected in the Ninth Circuit’s Fields v. Twitter ruling. To get around Fields, the plaintiffs alleged that the driver was radicalized by ISIS’s social media content, but the court says those allegations are conclusory; and even if true, the Fields case would still dictate that there was no proximate causation. On the ATA secondary claims, the court says Twitter didn’t provide any encouragement or assistance to the driver.

Like several other rulings in this genre, the court expressly declines to analyze Section 230.

One thing that I don’t recall seeing before (but maybe I’m forgetting): the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated “IEEPA,” or Executive Order 13224, which makes it a crime to willfully supply services to ISIS. 50 USC 1705 creates a civil claim for this criminal violation. The court dismisses the claim because the plaintiffs didn’t allege any facts showing the requisite willfulness by the defendants.

One other twist: the court permanently dismissed the federal claims but allowed the plaintiffs to refile the state law claims (wrongful death and NIED) in state court because those may be subject to a different proximate cause standard than the federal ATA law. So what the plaintiffs do? Will they take those two claims back state court? Appeal the federal ruling? Do both? (If that’s possible–civil proceduralists, help me out). Given the plaintiff lawyers’ past responses to courtroom losses, there’s little chance this ruling is the end of the case.

Case citation: Sinclair v. Twitter, Inc., C 17-5710 SBA (N.D. Cal. March 20, 2019). The original complaint.

Prior Blog Posts:

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