Andrew Chung and John Kruzel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear for a second straight day an attempt to hold Internet companies accountable for controversial content posted by users, this time linked to a lawsuit against Twitter Inc brought by the American relatives of a Jordanian man killed in an Istanbul nightclub.
Justices on Tuesday heard arguments in an appeal stemming from a separate lawsuit against YouTube, owned by Google LLC, which is part of Alphabet Inc, by the family of an American woman killed in the Paris attack by Islamist militants. Both lawsuits were filed under a US law that allows Americans to recover damages related to an “act of international terrorism.”
Relatives of Nawras Alassaf have accused Twitter of aiding and abetting the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the January 1, 2017, attack that killed him and 38 others shortly after midnight during a New Year’s Eve celebration, because the platform did not credit its account. or messages.
Twitter is appealing after a lower court allowed the lawsuit to proceed and found the company had refused to take “significant steps” to prevent Islamic State from using the social media platform.
The nine justices in the case, which was heard Tuesday, appeared torn on whether to narrow the form of legal immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields Internet companies from a wide range of lawsuits. The lower court dismissed the case largely on the grounds of Section 230 immunity.
The case involves a bid by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, an American woman who was fatally wounded in the 2015 attack in Paris – an attack also claimed by Islamic State – to hold Google liable for recommending YouTube content to certain users. from the group.
In the Twitter case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco did not address whether Section 230 bars the family’s lawsuit. Meta’s Google and Facebook are also defendants, but have not formally joined Twitter’s appeal.
A key question is whether the family’s claims sufficiently allege that the company knowingly provided “substantial assistance” to an “act of international terrorism” to allow the relatives to maintain a claim and seek damages under anti-terrorism law.
President Joe Biden’s administration is backing Twitter in the case, saying the Anti-Terrorism Act imposes liability for aiding and abetting a terrorist act, not for “providing general assistance to a foreign terrorist organization” without a causal connection to the act in question. The administration supported the plaintiffs in the case filed on Tuesday.
The Islamic State called the attack revenge for the Turkish military’s involvement in Syria. The main suspect, Uzbek national Abdulkadir Masharipov, was later captured by the police.
Twitter said in court documents that it had suspended more than 1.7 million accounts for violating rules against “threatening or facilitating terrorism.”
Decisions on both cases are due by the end of June.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)