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Twitter Is Not Legally Responsible For The Rise of ISIS, Rules California District Court (theverge.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A lawsuit accusing Twitter of providing material support to ISIS has been dismissed by a California District Court. First filed in January, the lawsuit argued ISIS's persistent presence on Twitter constituted material support for the terror group, and sought to hold Twitter responsible for an ISIS-linked attack on that basis. Filed by the family of an American contractor named Lloyd Fields, the lawsuit sought damages from an ISIS-linked attack in Jordan that claimed Fields' life. The plaintiff's initial complaint alleged widespread fundraising and recruitment through the platform, attributing 30,000 foreign actors recruited through ISIS Twitter accounts in 2015 alone. The judge assigned to the case was ultimately not swayed by that reasoning, finding that the plaintiffs had not offered a convincing argument for holding Twitter liable. The plaintiff will have the chance to submit a modified version of the complaint within 20 days of the order, the second such modification ordered by the judge. The report adds: "Apart from the private nature of Direct Messaging, plaintiffs identify no other way in which their Direct Messaging theory seeks to treat Twitter as anything other than a publisher of information provided by another information content provider," the ruling reads. At the same time, even the private nature of Twitter's Direct Messaging feature "does not remove the transmission of such messages from the scope of publishing activity under section 230(c)(1)."
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Twitter Is Not Legally Responsible For The Rise of ISIS, Rules California District Court

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  • by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2016 @09:14PM (#52681733) Homepage
    I skimmed the full opinion [docketalarm.com], but a 1928 case is instructive. In the 1928 case of Palsgraf v. LIRR [wikipedia.org] a women in a train station was injured when another passenger dropped a box of fireworks that caused some heavy equipment to fall on the women. The women sued the railroad company (as they likely had deeper pockets than the person dropping the fireworks). The court found that the rail road was too far removed from the events that occurred to find them liable. Here too, Twitter is too far removed from the actions of terrorists to find them liable.

    This is a pretty interesting example of classic legal concepts being applied to new technology. Anyone who says that the law is outmoded or needs to catch up, only needs to read this opinion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah, but the railroad company didn't pick and choose which luggage it took and which it didn't. Twitter is brazenly open about banning accounts whose politics it disagrees with. It's not some kind of common carrier situation. Islamic State DOES use Twitter as a recruiting tool and people really do die afterwards.
      • Either Twitter is:

        1. Run by delusional SJWs who refuse to ban people who support and praise the most unapologetically despicable quasi-state the modern world has ever seen (because any concession to Islamophobia would be worse.)

        2. They are constantly being approached by three letter agencies who alternately beg and demand that they not ban these accounts so that the users can be traced, warrants can be generated (against anyone who likes or retweets them), closet jihadi sympathizers goaded into saying
        • Re:Two possibilities (Score:5, Interesting)

          by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Thursday August 11, 2016 @01:14AM (#52682565)

          Or:

          3. Twitter is such a massive service, with a continually growing user base, with so many tweets posted and so much data ingested; that to stop ISIS using it is an extraordinarily difficult problem that they haven't solved.

          Imagine they tried to do it automatically. How do you program that AI? It has to distinguish between actual ISIS posts and accounts and actual people wishing to join ISIS versus: government types investigating ISIS, other terrorist groups claiming to be ISIS, people trolling by pretending to be ISIS, people trolling ISIS by pretending to want to join, people reporting on ISIS, people mocking ISIS, people discussing ISIS or news about ISIS, people into egyptology talking about the goddess Isis, Archer fans talking about the fictional ISIS, actual people named Isis, and so on, all without generating false positives and removing the posts or accounts of anyone besides the actual terrorist ISIS.

          Block by IP address blocks that they believe are owned by ISIS? Laughable. I shouldn't need to say more.

          Do it manually? Right off the bat, you need multilingual staff fluent in at least English and Arabic, plus probably French, Spanish, and Farsi. And not just academically fluent as in "I took classes in school"; but actually fluent and nuanced enough to understand the aforementioned differences and never have false positives. Those people don't come cheap, even if the task is simple and easy. They especially don't come cheap in the Bay Area, where they can probably get a better job doing software localization. But assuming you can find the talent pool of fluent multilingual willing to do the crap job of slogging through twitter looking for ISIS posts and accounts; twitter ingests half a billion tweets per DAY. I can't begin to imagine how many people it would take to screen all that; nor just how awful that job would be.

          • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 11, 2016 @08:01AM (#52683495)

            To catch all kinds of euphemisms and hidden double entendres you'd need a native speaker who happens to have been in the area recently to pick up all neologisms too.

            People like this aren't just expensive, they're simply near impossible to get.

            • Uh, I'm not sure why you and SvnLyrBrto think this is a hard problem. The people using Arabic twitter aren't being subtle about it. For example, the "#KillAllAtheists" hashtag was trending a while back.

              Is there some hidden double meaning there that we're missing?
              • The problem is that every time you start censoring, people come up with clever ways to circumvent it. If you can no longer communicate openly, people start to develop codes. If you need proof thereof, ask anyone from the former East Bloc. For example I remember that "blue tiles" was East German code for west money. So anyone who was willing to part with something rare and sought after usually put an ad in the paper that he wanted to trade it for blue tiles.

                Did you know that? Probably not, if you weren't fro

          • "Imagine they tried to do it automatically. How do you program that AI? "

            And if they were able to develop such an AI, it would be the greatest investigative weapon against terrorists the world has ever seen.

            • "Imagine they tried to do it automatically. How do you program that AI? "

              And if they were able to develop such an AI, it would be the greatest investigative weapon against terrorists the world has ever seen.

              And, shortly thereafter, the greatest weapon for terrorists the world has ever seen.

          • ... all without generating false positives and removing the posts or accounts of anyone besides the actual terrorist ISIS. ...and never have false positives...

            Where in the world did you get the requirement that there have to be exactly zero false positives?

            Surely false positives are bad and should be avoided. But I venture that most people would find it an acceptable tradeoff if one in a million legitimate tweets gets rejected by filter. Systems don't have to be perfect to be usable. Heck, I bet that random network errors and other gremlins cause just as many failures anyway.

            Even /. has a automatic spam filter that will trigger if you try to post a message with

          • One has to ask why we apparently let the terrorist organizations use these services that run on networks used for commercial and public services, as it is clear they provide a low cost and wide coverage recruiting method. There seems to be too little discussion on strategies to keep them off the networks in the first place. This probably sounds naive, but come on, Twitter and Facebook are for-profit companies. It's not like a public infrastructure like a roadway that the terrorists are driving down. (Any l

          • Some popular Arabic hashtags are overtly pro-violence and pro-ISIS with no alternative interpretation. Twitter has apparently not pursued the policy of auto-banning or even sending an automatic warning to anyone who says #KillAllAtheists, for example. "Cockup before conspiracy" is a fine guiding principle in life, but in this case I don't think it's sufficient.
          • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

            I would bet they could find enough native speakers of Arabic, if only those people didn't feel like their very lives might be threatened by exposure. I can think of at least a couple Saudi atheists who really would rather not live in a theocracy that wants them dead, and would help defeat it if they could do so without extreme risk.

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          Given who they put onto their abuse council (whatever the fuck it's called) I'm fairly confident that (1) is a far higher factor than you give it credit for.

      • Maybe the lawyers should have argued that in court. The judge isn't going to do their work for them, if they don't present a reason, they're probably not going to get it.
      • It's still the same: just like the railroad won't allow you to take grenades on the train, Twitter don't want dangerous lunatics on their service.

    • This is a pretty interesting example of classic legal concepts being applied to new technology. Anyone who says that the law is outmoded or needs to catch up, only needs to read this opinion.

      No, that's what's so maddening about law today. Even when the existing law covers the situation adequately, they often feel a need to make new laws. This is especially true when you reach the internet.

    • I find it actually fascinating that "on the internet" didn't require its own precedents. Maybe judges do adapt eventually.

  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2016 @09:15PM (#52681741)
    Cause I thought the general consensus was that Twitter is responsible for the rise of Isis, and terrorism in general.
    • Following the general consensus, I'm sure the US Department of Defense has come to the same conclusion, and is re-directing their resources as we speak.

      To anyone who lives / works near there: can you please look out the window & check if Twitter HQ is being bombed already? Thx for keeping us up to date!

      • They're not being bombed right now, but they just decided to lease out hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space in their headquarters. Maybe they know something is coming...
        • Operation Human Shield?

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        The US Department of Defence investigated the rise of ISIS, oh the dry whit. Perhaps those captured American weapons and munitions, plus videos of ISIS using American weapons and munitions, plus actual journalist investigatory efforts, plus the reports from other countries investigatory agencies, plus actual battles between DOD terrorists and CIA terrorist, would have been a big enough hint as to who was responsible for the rise of ISIS and not by bloody accident. Well, I guess that will be one really easy

    • by tuxgeek ( 872962 )
      But Twitter make for a great boogeyman right now, among others.
      Reminds me of the old game of distraction while your pocket is being picked .. but this .. on a much grander scale ..
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2016 @09:17PM (#52681747)

    This guy is a police instructor, and goes to Jordan to train police in a part of the world that's not exactly known for being all rainbows and unicorn turds.

    Well after there have already been many "green on blue" attacks where instructees have shot up the (American) instructors in the name of extremist Islam, it happens to him and he gets killed in just such an event.

    His family doesn't go after the Jordanian police for not checking background information sufficiently, or taking other measures to watch for this kind of problem.

    His family doesn't go after the contracting company that he worked for, for not protecting him sufficiently while there.

    His family goes after...Twitter? Wow...let me JUST TAKE A WILD FUCKING GUESS why they went after Twitter...no, wait, I think I got it...

    • Reminds me of the George Carlin bit of everyone being outraged when an American contractor gets killed.

      "Besides, who cares about some mercenary civilian contractor from Oklahoma who gets his head cut off? Fuck 'em. Hey Jack, you don't want to get your head cut off? Stay the fuck in Oklahoma. They ain't cuttin' off heads in Oklahoma, far as I know."
  • Obama is responsible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's be honest, Bush shouldn't have started the invasion in 2003. There were no WMDs, and things like banned missiles were actually being destroyed. Hans Blix actually praised Iraq for disarming themselves and destroying the missiles just before Bush started the invasion. However, over the next several years, things were eventually brought under control by the troop surge and paying Iraqi militia to provide security. Obama stopped those payments and undid what Bush had finally gotten right. And he's shown

    • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2016 @09:58PM (#52681909)

      While Bush & Obama both share the blame - Bush for toppling Saddam, who was busy curbing Shi'ites, and Obama for joining w/ the Sunni powers - the Saudis, the Turks, the Qataris in trying to topple Assad, the real responsibility for ISIS rise is in one place - Sunnis of both Iraq and Syria.

      As I have mentioned on quite a few occasions, a country's main Islamizing forces come from the majority Muslim sect in that country. Which is Shi'ites in Iraq, and Sunnites in Syria. In Syria, the Sunnis previously rallied behind the Muslim Brotherhood, and after the civil war started, they rallied behind the various Sunnite militias that arose, be it the FSA, Khorasan Group, Ansar al Shariah... In Iraq, the Sunnis, who were previously content to rally behind Saddam, now had to rally behind someone given the rise of an Iran backed Shi'ite regime in Baghdad. That force was previously Zarqawi, and after his death, ISIS.

      The thing to note about Islam is that it's not a 'live & let live' religion: everybody is expected to make everybody else follow 'true Islam', or whatever they think it is. So it's not enough to let all Muslims of different sects in any country co-exist happily - be it in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, et al. They have to make everybody else acknowledge that fact, and hence, one has not just the bloodletting in Syria & Iraq, but also Sunnite on Shi'ite violence in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, et al. So after Iraq gets a 'democratically elected' government, the Shi'ites who dominate it have to enable their militias like the Mahdi Army and get into bed w/ Iran. On the other side, the Sunnis fight not merely for the right not to be persecuted by al Haidari or Assad, but to dominate the entire ummah, or Islamic world.

      The end result is that what started as a movement for the persecuted Sunnites in Syria and later Iraq is now a worldwide Jihadist campaign to restore the caliphate. While any number of Muslims can curse them all they like, fact remains that ISIS as a caliphate resembles caliphates of the past, like the Abbasids. In the 9th and 10th centuries, when the Abbasids were the caliphate in Baghdad, Muslim contenders for power in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkestan, et al would lobby to get the Caliph to recognize each of them, and who the Caliph endorsed actually mattered. Compare that to just now. Different Jihadist movements, like Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Jemiah Islamiah in Indonesia, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, affiliate groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Boko Haram in North Africa all swear allegiance to ISIS. That's exactly how a Caliphate was supposed to work - a central group somewhere, and different Muslim armies worldwide doing everything they did in the name of Islam, and getting the official Islamic seal of approval from that central group.

      The reason ISIS is where it is is b'cos there are enough Muslims in the entire population who take seriously Islamic injunctions to wage Jihad on Infidels. Whether they rally behind ISIS, al Qaeda, CAIR, HAMAS, al Quds, Taliban, et al or anyone else is really immaterial

      • by tuxgeek ( 872962 )
        Thank you. Very Informative.
        Very well put, relational history between the groups. If I had mod points ..
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jandersen ( 462034 )

        The thing to note about Islam is that it's not a 'live & let live' religion: everybody is expected to make everybody else follow 'true Islam', ...

        In Matth 28:19, all Christians are ordered to "go and make disciples of all nations, ..." - something that is thankfully shrugged off by most followers of Christianity, but it has in the past been taken as a carte blanche to go out and subdue ther rest of the world, from the innumerable, religious wars or trivia, the Crusades (the Christian term for Jihad), the European imperialism ("We have a duty to civilise the Heathens") etc etc. It is also well known to anybody with a moderately open mind, that by far

        • The difference here is that Christianity went through a reformation - in fact quite a few - that reinterpreted a lot of the things you mentioned so that they are no longer applicable today. In fact, that's been around for more than a century - one did not see any religious wars in the 1900s. In Islam, however, such a re-interpretation is known as 'bida' or innovation, and is considered heretical. The laws that were laid out during the Abbasid caliphate are considered ironclad for all time and not open fo

          • How is any of what you describe different from what went on in Christianity? Persecution of heretics in Christianity didn't stop with the Reformation - the followers of Luther, Calvin etc were even more intolerant of what they saw as heresy, than the Catholics. Except perhaps for the Quakers. Hell, if you go to some places in the US, where they take their version of the Gospel very serious indeed, then you won't meet much tolerance either, if you dissent from their "Truth". This is simply human nature - we

            • What is different is that you only have a fringe that clings to the narrow views that you describe, among Christians. Not the case w/ Muslims

              Pick a 'moderate' Muslim country, like Malaysia. There, you have a systematic discrimination in favor of Muslims (Malays) over non-Muslims (Chinese, Indians): it's called Bhumiputra. Although most people think of it as an ethnic discrimination against non-Malays, it includes for protection converts to Islam, Hui Chinese (who are Muslim) while excluding non-Muslim

        • Religion is externalizing your internal hatred and bigotry. "It's not me that hates the Jews, the gays, the "sinner", but God does!"

          Bullshit. You're trying to rationalize and externalize your very own irrational hate. Plain and simple.

    • by tuxgeek ( 872962 )

      You are so fucking clueless. Absolutely disgusting
      "We armed Iraq in the 1980s as they fought Iran,"
      WE ARMED BOTH FUCKING SIDES ASSHOLE!

      Raygun sold boatloads of military hardware to Iran in '81 for helping him get elected.
      Hell, those assholes sold military hardware to everybody. Even OBL. All Illegal as hell by any law under the sun.
      They literally made Al Queda and released it onto the world.
      Fitting that the most recent Bush clusterfuck we had earned them all guilty convictions for war crimes and crim

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're a partisan hack. Go back to watching Rachel Madcow.

        No fucking shit that the Americans were happy to send arms to Iraq and Iran. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who used chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds. The American support helped strengthen his military and acquire the chemical weapons. And yes, Reagan and Bush 41 both helped arm Iraq. No shit.

        And no fucking shit that the US helped arm and train what eventually became AQ. They intervened and tried to fight a proxy war against the

      • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Thursday August 11, 2016 @08:36AM (#52683651)

        People blame 'Raygun' and the CIA/USA for arming the Taliban and al Qaeda. Actually, wrong on both counts. During the Afghan war, the party that the US supported was a Pashto Jihadist group called Hizb ul Islami, led by Gulbuddin Heqmatyar, who is today considered by the US a terrorist. That was also the warlord of choice of General Zia ul Haq, the Pak president: the US at the time outsourced its policy on Afghanistan (in terms of whom to support) to Pakistan, and on the Middle East to Egypt (which influenced the US to take Iraq's side in the war, partly to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the Arabs who boycotted them after their peace treaty w/ Israel). Pakistan switched its support to the Taliban when Benazir Bhutto - that champion of women - came to power and hated everyone that Gen Zia supported (since he had hanged her father). But by then, the Soviets were already out of Afghanistan, and Pakistan wanted a client regime in Kabul, which the Taliban delivered.

        As far as al Qaeda went, they got their support from not just renegade Saudis (since the Saudi royals hated them and were hot on them since they wanted to overthrow the monarchy in Riyadh) but from other Arab Jihadists from countries like the Emirates and Qatar. Remember, only 3 countries recognized the Taliban regime even though they had almost 100% control in Afghanistan - KSA, UAE and Pakistan.

        • by tuxgeek ( 872962 )

          I'm actually more spot on than you realize, regarding raygun/OB/AlQaeda/ISIS/XYZ.
          I don't question your "facts".

          I present the facts that Raygun, making backroom deals with Islamic factions in Afganistan, partly to fuck with the soviets, partly for money & power .. afterward you renege on all promises .. and then publicly make your new "friends" now your most hated enemy ..

          The fact that the US has been meddling in and outright fucking over many of the countries of the middle east for generations .. fo

          • I more or less agree w/ you. I don't fully agree w/ what Reagan did then, but I do understand what he did. He determined that Communism was a greater threat than Islam, and that was something that could be validly argued. So he allied w/ Islamic forces from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and helped make Afghanistan the Vietnam of the Soviets. Once the Cold War ended, it was legitimate for the US to withdraw from the region, but then, different countries, like Pakistan, Iran, et al all wanted their puppets to

  • Given Twitter's backing by Saudi Arabia, I'm not surprised.

  • We'll build a firewall and send the bill to the Muslims
    • OPEC can pay for it. After all, OPEC is pretty much the Mohammedan countries (not counting Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria and a few others)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... Perhaps everyone has already forgotten that when Washington’s plan to invade Syria was blocked by the UK Parliament and Russian diplomacy, Washington sent the forces used against Gaddafi in Libya to overthrow Assad in Syria where they emerged as ISIS and commit extraordinary atrocities.

  • what i blame is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Thursday August 11, 2016 @06:01AM (#52683155)
    islam, the religion of peace, thats what i blame

    https://www.thereligionofpeace... [thereligionofpeace.com]
    • Mod this one up!!!
  • This could mean a gun manufacturer is not liable for someone committing murder with their product, right?

  • Since 1971 America is bullying Saudi Arabia to sell Oil exclusively in US Dollars;
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]
    Result is friction between The Muslim and The West;
    http://qz.com/562128/isil-is-a... [qz.com]

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