Father of 2015 Paris Attack Victim Sues Social Media

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 17, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The father of one of the victims who fell in the Paris attacks in late 2015 is suing Twitter and other social media platforms for their role in bringing the attacks about. Specifically, he has accused the defending parties of "providing material support for terrorism."

The defendants have responded by claiming that the Communications Decency Act shields them from liability associated with user posts. But in this delicate case, who will -- or should -- win?

Reynaldo Gonzalez

The suit is brought by Mr. Reynaldo Gonzalez against Google, Twitter, and Facebook. His daughter was one of the 130 people killed during the November 2015 attacks that shook Paris to its foundations. The shootings took place at multiple locations and were executed at roughly the same time, coordinated by the terrorists in order to exact maximum property damage and human suffering.

Reynaldo's suit alleges that the defending companies "knowingly permitted" ISIL/ISIS/Daesh to recruit members, raise money and spread terrorist propaganda using their platforms. Examples of such recruitment efforts include Omar Hussain's on Facebook. Additionally, YouTube (owned by Google) has also posted graphic beheading videos committed by ISIS fighters. In the midst of those murders, Tweets were posted by ISIS sympathizers bearing the hashtag "#AMessagefromISIStoUS."

User Agreement Rules

Social media platforms have had to adopt anti-hate, anti-terrorism rules in order to minimize the legal costs associated with lax standards. In fact, this is the second lawsuit that Twitter has had to deal with in a year.

Tough Times

There are the human casualties of terror related attacks (most recently, the Orlando shooting) and then there is the social aftermath. Because of attacks like the San Bernardino shootings, many believe that companies should be obligated to share their users' information with government authorities. But sentiment for these calls wanes when time passes.

Then there's the CDA. The application of the CDA might have the effect of eliminating one avenue for terrorist to communicate and coordinate, but it will also have the secondary effect of reducing another platform for persons to voice their opinions on a non-government platform. All we can do is revisit this issue once the court decides.

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