On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court is set to hear for a second consecutive day a bid to charge Internet companies for controversial content posted by users, due to a lawsuit against Twitter Inc. by the American relatives of a Jordanian man killed in a Istanbul nightclub massacre.
On Tuesday, the judges heard arguments in an appeal coming from a different lawsuit against Google LLC-owned YouTube, subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc, by the family of an American woman killed in a Paris attack by militants. Both lawsuits were brought under a US law that enables Americans to recover damages related to “an act of international terrorism.”
Twitter was accused of aiding and abetting the Daesh group by the relatives of Nawras Alassaf , which claimed responsibility for the Jan. 1, 2017 attack that killed him and 38 others shortly after midnight during a New Year’s celebration, by failing to police the platform for its accounts or posts.
The company is appealing after a lower court allowed that lawsuit to proceed and found that the company had refused to take “meaningful steps” to monitor the use of the social media platform.
On Tuesday, nine judges hearing in the proceedings argued and appeared torn over whether to narrow a form of legal immunity provided under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that shields Internet companies from a wide array of lawsuits. The lower court dismissed that this case was even based on Section 230 immunity.
It involves a bid by the family of an American woman named Nohemi Gonzalez who was fatally shot in a 2015 rampage in Paris — to hold search engine giant Google accountable for suggesting to certain YouTube users content from the group.
In the case filed against Twitter, the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals did not consider if Section 230 barred the family’s lawsuit. Both Google and Meta’s Facebook are defendants, but they did not formally join Twitter’s appeal.
According to a report by Reuters, “President Joe Biden’s administration is backing Twitter in the case, saying the Anti-Terrorism Act imposes liability for assisting a terrorist act and not for ‘providing generalized aid to a foreign terrorist organization’ with no causal link to the act at issue. The administration backed the plaintiffs in the case argued on Tuesday.”
In court papers, Twitter has said that it has terminated more than 1.7 million accounts for violating rules against “threatening or promoting terrorism.”
Final verdict in both cases are due by the end of June.