Twitter sued by U.S. widow for allowing ISIS to use its short messaging platform to spread terrorist propaganda
The widow of an American killed in Jordan has sued Twitter Inc. for allowing the Islamic State militants to use its platform as a “voice” to spew its propaganda online.
The woman in question is Tamara Fields whose husband, Lloyd Fields was killed in November last year in an attack on the police training center in Amman. She has also alleged that despite knowing that ISIS had accounts on Twitter, the social network failed to take appropriate steps and allowed them to remain on it, which gave them power to spread propaganda and raise money to attract new foreign fighters.
“Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit comes days after the White House announced its intentions to get tech giants including Twitter, Microsoft, and Apple on board in their fight against terror online.
Her husband Lloyd, a government contractor and police trainer, was one of five people killed by Jordanian police officer Anwar Abu Zeid at the Jordanian International Police Training Centre (JIPTC) near Amman.
Two other Jordanian policemen, a South African and another US instructor were also killed.
Abu Zeid, reportedly a Salafist, reportedly committed suicide after his shooting spree, and the incident was treated as a “lone wolf attack” by authorities who stressed that there were no ties to any bigger militant group.
Many Jordanians, including Abu Zeid’s family, viewed the shooting attack as a tragic one motivated by personal reasons.
Fields’ lawsuit, which she filed on Wednesday from Oakland, California, demands Twitter pay her triple damages for violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act by providing material support to terrorists.
She cited Twitter as giving IS “unfettered” ability to maintain official Twitter accounts, which Fields believes allowed the group to spread propaganda with ease.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Twitter expressed their sympathies with Fields, but noted their belief that the lawsuit is frivolous.
“While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family’s terrible loss. Like people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups and their ripple effects on the Internet.”
“Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear. We have teams around the world actively investigating reports of rule violations, identifying violating conduct, partnering with organizations countering extremist content online, and working with law enforcement entities when appropriate.”
Bursor & Fisher, the firm representing Fields, said that this is the first case in which a social media company is accused of violating the law. If the suit is successful, it could set a significant precedent for how social media platforms and online forums approach radical speech in the future. It would also, no doubt, have implications far beyond Twitter, putting tech companies across Silicon Valley on warning.
Still, Twitter is far from the only platform ISIS members have embraced to spread their message.
In November, messaging app Telegram announced that it had shut down 78 public channels used for coordination by ISIS members. Twitter suspended 2,000 separate accounts in a matter of days last March, sometimes pulling a single account seven times in a day and attracting death threats from angry Islamic State supporters.
Even, hacking group Anonymous have attempted to try and take down as many ISIS-related Twitter accounts as possible, and have even appealed to the general public to try and help them.