The families and estates of more than a dozen victims who were killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando have filed a federal lawsuit against Twitter, Google, Facebook and YouTube for allegedly contributing to the radicalization of the gunman who was inspired by ISIS. According to a news report in the Daily Mail, the estates of three victims originally filed the lawsuit in Michigan in December. Last week, it was amended to include 10 more plaintiffs.
Allegations Made in Lawsuits
The suit accuses the two social media sites, the video-sharing platform and Google, the world’s most ubiquitous search engine, of allowing ISIS to share content, which allegedly motivated gunman Omar Mateen to carry out the massacre. He opened fire inside the packed nightclub the night of June 12 killing 49 and injuring 68 others. Mateen was shot dead by police. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare that the social media sites have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act by permitting ISIS supporters to use the Internet and disseminate content meant to radicalize individuals.
This is not the only lawsuit this horrific terror attack has generated. In late March, more than a dozen Pulse victims of their families filed another lawsuit against G4S, the security firm where Mateen worked as a guard and against the killer’s wife, Noor. Plaintiffs believe that this lawsuit might actually help prevent future tragedies. Christine Leinonen, the mother of one of the victims, has said she plans to give all the money from the lawsuit to a foundation she has started in memory of her son, Christopher. The Dru Project promotes gay-straight alliances in schools.
The Impact of Social Media and the Internet
This could be an extremely interesting lawsuit, which draws attention to a number of issues including the important role social media and the Internet play when it comes to radicalization. ISIS in particular aggressively uses YouTube videos and Twitter to target and recruit vulnerable youth. Counter extremism experts have, for years, urged these companies to come up with ways to prevent terrorist groups from using the Internet. But, so far, that hasn’t happened.
It will be interesting to see whether this lawsuit succeeds in preventing radicalization through the Internet. This federal lawsuit may be able to serve and important purpose and honor the memory of those who tragically perished in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that suffered irreparable losses on that fateful day.