Eleventh Circuit Rejects “Material Support for Terrorists” Case–Colon v. Twitter

This is one of the many lawsuits against social media services for allegedly providing material support to terrorists. These cases have all failed–with the partial exception of the Ninth Circuit meltdown (3 judges; 3 opinions) in Gonzalez v. Google LLC, 2021 WL 2546675 (9th Cir. June 22, 2021), which I never had the chance to blog because it’s 167 pages and the panel was so deeply split that the whole decision clearly needs en banc review. Indeed, the Gonzalez decision is now subject to rehearing requests (see the requests in Clayborn v. Twitter, Gonzalez v. Google. and Taamneh v. Twitter).

This case involves the murder of 49 people, and wounding of dozens of others, at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. ISIS took credit for the murders. A case also involving that attack, Crosby v. Twitter, failed. This parallel lawsuit involves victims not included in the Crosby case.

The court says the attack wasn’t an act of “international terrorism” pursuant to the federal statute. The attack, in a Florid nightclub by a Florida murderer who was “radicalized” in Florida, did not “occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States” and did not “transcend national boundaries.” (This concords with the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Retana v. Twitter). The plaintiffs make a big point about ISIS’s use of social media, but the “Internet was not the means by which the Pulse massacre was accomplished.” Also, ISIS didn’t “commit, plan, or authorize” the attack as required by the statute; they took credit after-the-fact. This concords with the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in the Crosby case.

The state law claims fail for lack of proximate causation. The court says “we cannot make sense of Florida law on proximate cause in circumstances like the ones alleged in the complaint,” but because the plaintiffs did such a poor job advocating their case, the court wasn’t willing to do their job for them. In other words, this case was never close.

This case, like many others in its genre, failed without the court discussing either Section 230 or the First Amendment, though both doctrines likely would have required the case dismissal as well. Once again, I have to point out that amending Section 230 to exclude terrorist-related claims would not have changed the legal outcome here; it would just mess up Section 230.

Case citation: Colon v. Twitter, Inc., 2021 WL 4395246 (11th Cir. Sept. 27, 2021)

Prior Blog Posts:

* Social Media Providers Aren’t Liable for Domestic Mass-Shooting–Retana v. Twitter
“Material Support for Terrorism” Lawsuit Fails a Third Time–Colon v. Twitter
Twelfth Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Retana v. Twitter
Second Circuit Issues Powerful Section 230 Win to Facebook in “Material Support for Terrorists” Case–Force v. Facebook
Eleventh Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Palmucci v. Twitter
Another Appellate Court Rejects “Material Support for Terrorist” Claims Against Social Media Platforms–Crosby v. Twitter
Tenth Lawsuit Against Social Media Providers for “Materially Supporting Terrorists” Fails–Sinclair v. Twitter
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