High Court to hear social media terrorism charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear two cases seeking to hold social media companies financially responsible for terrorist attacks.

Relatives of people killed in terrorist attacks in France and Turkey had sued Google, Twitter and Facebook. They accused the companies of helping terrorists spread their message and radicalize new recruits.

The court will hear cases this quarter, which began on Monday, with a decision expected before the court recesses for the summer, usually at the end of June. The court did not say when it would hear arguments, but the court has already filled its oral argument schedule for October and November.

One of the cases the judges will hear involves Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old US citizen studying in Paris. The Cal State Long Beach student was one of 130 people killed in attacks by the Islamic State group in November 2015. The attackers hit cafes, in front of France’s national stadium and inside the Bataclan theater. Gonzalez died in an attack at the La Belle Equipe bistro.

Those close to Gonzalez sued Google, which owns YouTube, saying the platform helped the Islamic State group by allowing it to post hundreds of videos that helped incite violence and recruit potential supporters. Those close to Gonzalez said the company’s computer algorithms recommend these videos to viewers most likely to be interested in them.

But a judge dismissed the case and a federal appeals court upheld the decision. Under US law – specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – Internet companies are generally exempt from liability for material that users post on their networks.

The other case the court has agreed to hear concerns Jordanian citizen Nawras Alassaf. He died in the 2017 attack on Reina nightclub in Istanbul where an Islamic State-affiliated gunman killed 39 people.

Those close to Alassaf have sued Twitter, Google and Facebook for aiding terrorism, arguing that the platforms have helped the Islamic State grow and have not gone far enough to try to curb terrorist activity on their platforms. A lower court let the case proceed.

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