Social Media

Appeals Court Rules Social Media Companies Not Liable for Pulse Nightclub Shooter's Radicalization

"The plaintiffs failed to make out a plausible claim that the Pulse massacre was an act of 'international terrorism' as that term is defined in the ATA."


Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision that Pulse nightclub shooting victims and families cannot hold social media companies liable for aiding and abetting shooter Omar Mateen's horrific act under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

Omar Mateen, who in 2016 killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, had been radicalized via ISIS' presence on social media companies like YouTube and Facebook. Mateen had posted Facebook messages in the days preceding the attack, claiming ISIS would be carrying out an operation on U.S soil. After he went on his shooting rampage in the nightclub, he took hostages, barricading himself in the bathroom and phoning 911 to claim he was an "ISIS soldier." Police shot and killed Mateen on the scene and ISIS took responsibility for the nightclub attack after the fact, calling Mateen "a soldier of the Caliphate."

"The plaintiffs here alleged in part that the companies aided and abetted Mr. Mateen in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2333(a) & (d)(2), by facilitating his access to radical jihadist and ISIS-sponsored content in the months and years leading up to the shooting," writes the 11th Circuit.

"We are deeply saddened by the deaths and injuries caused by Mr. Mateen's rampage, but we agree with the district court that the plaintiffs failed to make out a plausible claim that the Pulse massacre was an act of 'international terrorism' as that term is defined in the ATA. And without such an act of 'international terrorism,' the social media companies—no matter what we may think of their alleged conduct—cannot be liable for aiding and abetting under the ATA."

In order to qualify as international terrorism under the ATA, the 11th Circuit explains, an act that would be criminal according to U.S. law must also be intended "(i) to intimidate or coerce civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping." It must also "transcend national boundaries" in terms of where the perpetrators carrying out the terroristic act are located, or where the victims are located.

Though the suit notes that ISIS has been disturbingly successful in its endeavor, recruiting approximately 30,000 foreigners—including an estimated 250 Americans—since 2013, and maintaining robust social media presence to do so, the nightclub shooting was carried out by a resident of Florida who killed other residents of Florida; there's no reason to believe the act "transcend[s] national boundaries," satisfying any of the requirements outlined above.

As the social media companies correctly point out, the Internet was not the means by which the Pulse massacre was accomplished. The allegation that ISIS posts propaganda, videos, and messages on the social media companies' platforms—which we accept as true—suggests "nothing more than that ISIS posts information on the Internet, which might be communicated over international borders. Nothing in those statements points to any element of [Mr.] Mateen's conduct in carrying out the attack that had any transnational component." The same goes for the allegations that the companies derive revenue from advertisements posted on ISIS videos.

Other lawsuits brought forth by victims' families, like Crosby v. Twitter, have also attempted to hold social media companies liable. "If we accepted plaintiffs' argument," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said in that case, "defendants would become liable for seemingly endless acts of modern violence simply because the individual viewed relevant social media content before deciding to commit the violence."

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  2. Do they really want to open the can of worms that is responsibility for this kind of radicalization? Mateen was, of course, solely responsible for the shooting itself.

    1. No, he did it because he HATED DA GAYZ.
      Just ask any Prog.

  3. "access to radical jihadist and ISIS-sponsored content" is not a problem for Facebook, but the truth is.

  4. Alec Baldwin is sad the shooter was not a white guy.

    1. Had Alec been in his SNL character costume, would Trump have been charged for the person that was shot and killed?

  5. Wait a minute. I thought the Pulse shooter was some white homophobe and probably Amish stirred up by Trump's Russian coordinated attacks on the sainted Hillary Clinton?

    1. He was a white male Christian in spirit or something. Internalized whiteness.

  6. Probably a correct decision under the definitions in the Act, but the definitions in the Act are suspect. When someone shifts their allegiance to a foreign entity (e.g. ISIS) or places the tenets of a religion (e.g. Islam) above their duties as a US citizen, the Act should define them as "international terrorists" regardless of their birthplace, citizenship, or current residence.

    But that is only step one -- for step two, I do not believe social media is responsible for the acts. There should be no provision to hold social media companies responsible for the acts of international terrorists (regardless how we define those).

    1. Whoa! What, exactly are my duties as a citizen? Even if I were in a position that had duties, are you going to tell the people in that position that 'God, Country, Corps' makes them terrorists?

      places the tenets of a religion (e.g. Islam) above their duties as a US citizen in the commission of a violent crime

      Kim Davis is a terrorist is kinda fucked up and your definition could have implications for In-and-Out.

    2. The content creators for ISIS social media pages are foreigners and the pages were hosted in the US.

      That was the nexus to international terrorism that these f..king judges should have acknowledged.

  7. Didn’t this club have a “no firearms” policy?

  8. What a stupid ruling. Of course this was international terrorism. The guy was practically waving an ISIS flag as he murdered people. It was intended to intimidate homosexuals. It's about as clear cut terrorism as they come.

    That doesn't mean Facebook and Youtube are in any way responsible, but it was terrorism.

    1. It’s worse than terrorism. It was mass murder.

    2. It's now only terrorism if you protested on Jan6 or voted Trump. That is worse than 9/11.

      1. They already tried to pin this shooting on “white supremacy.”

      2. Or if you think public schools should be accountable to the parents, those are the worst terrorists

    3. Actually it wasn't about homos, he targeted there because it was the first Google search hit of popular nightclubs. He wanted to hit Disney but their security was too good

      1. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ TH IS

      2. So it had nothing to do with one guy pushing in the stool of another guy?

        1. Well ... that *IS* what the whole niteclub was about but that had zip to do with the Jihadist's motivation.

    4. Yup. No liability to social media for this asshole's decision to become a terrorist because he sought out the materials he wanted. He's definitely still an international terrorist who explained why he was committing the acts he committed and credit for the attack was taken by international terrorists.

  9. Facebook and YouTube are guilty of transgressions that go far beyond letting terrorists post their shit online, the most egregious of which, and the one that will get them sued most often, is HAVING LOTS OF MONEY. "Depth of Pocket" is a very salient consideration in the administration of justice in America.

    On one end, this inspires the creative legal thinking that leads to $5 million lawsuits for "not enough strawberry in my Pop Tart", or eight figure compensation for coffee being hot. On the other end, it inspires the suppression of commentary or posts that might reduce the DoP of major corps, as with Iver-you-know-what.

    1. People need to quit using the 'hot coffee' case to make a point. A 79 year-old lady received 3rd degree burns to her crotch because of a stupid policy known to be a danger to customers, keeping coffee served to people in vehicles at 190 degrees. The vehicle was stationary when she removed the lid to add cream. The heat of the coffee caused burns so bad she needed surgery after only 3 seconds of exposure. A reasonable 160 would have taken 20 seconds.

      It could have settled for $20K if they hadn't refused and offered her $800. The 2.9M in punitive damages (only 7 figures) amounted to only 2 days average coffee revenues for McDonalds. But it got their attention and they changed their dumbass policy. It was settled after appeal, probably for less.

      It was actually a reasonable outcome that served the public well.

      1. I remember reading about that. I hated that poor lady for the longest time until I was redpilled on the actual story.

  10. So Mateen says he is acting on behalf of ISIS. ISIS claims he was acting on their behalf. Social media I do not think should be held responsible for Mateen's actions, but we do essentially have a confession that the court overturns by an almost absurdly technical reading of the law.

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