The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Zoom's Refusal to Host Events That Include Terrorist Group Leader Leila Khaled

Prof. Steven Lubet (Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) has an excellent analysis.


I was meaning to blog about this, but Prof. Lubet's Faculty Lounge post captures the matter quite well: It appears that Zoom has serious reason to think that allowing such events would be a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, which bars providing "communications equipment" (among other assistance) to designated foreign terrorist groups. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is one such group, and Khaled is—or at least was, as of December 2017—on its steering committee (the "political bureau").

Lubet has more, both as to the PLFP and as to the possible overbreadth of the statute (which was upheld, as applied to a similar but somewhat different situation, in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010)); read the whole whole post, but here's his bottom line as to Zoom's role:

[E]nterprises such as Zoom and YouTube are not in a position … [to] discount [Khaled's] leadership role in the PFLP …. [L]ike it or not, U.S. law makes it a crime to provide communication support to designated foreign terrorist organizations…. [T]he leading U.S. Supreme Court case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, held, in a 6-3 majority opinion, that the material support statute may indeed apply to "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization," a muddled standard that could plausibly include a presentation by a member of the PFLP'S Political Bureau.

UPDATE: I've seen some material online (e.g., this BuzzFeed story) that claims that Zoom is refusing to host some programs simply because they criticize Zoom's decision on this.  But according to thes Zoom statement quoted here, they are only blocking events where it appears to them that Khaled will be "join[ing]" (in the sense of appearing). It's possible that there was factual confusion there, with Zoom trying to avoid possible criminal liability for having events where a foreign terrorist organization leader appears, but misunderstanding whether that's factually so as to particular events.