For Third Time, Google, Facebook, Twitter Accused of Materially Aiding Terror Groups

Families of San Bernardino terror attack victims say three companies are providing infrastructure for terror propaganda, recruiting.


Google, along with Facebook and Twitter, have once again been sued for allegedly providing material support to terrorists.

The lawsuit is the third one to be filed against the three companies on the same issue in less than a year. Families of victims of the terror attacks in Orlando and Paris filed the first two lawsuits.

The plaintiffs this time are the families of three victims of the 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed and nearly two dozen others were injured.

In a 64-page complaint filed last week in a Los Angeles federal court, the plaintiffs accused the three huge cloud-service providers of "knowingly and recklessly" providing material support to the terror group ISIS. The complaint alleged that the Silicon Valley-based companies were instrumental to the growth of ISIS by allowing the terror group and its sympathizers to use their platforms to spread propaganda, raise funds and attract recruits.

Like the previous two lawsuits, the latest one also accused Google of not only materially supporting terrorist activities but of also profiting from ads placed on ISIS videos and propaganda messages on YouTube.

"Without defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), 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 plaintiffs noted in their complaint.

Current U.S. laws protect Internet companies such as Google from being held legally responsible for content uploaded by others to sites such as YouTube. However, the latest lawsuit, like the two before it, is not based on the content of ISIS' videos or messages distributed via Google, Facebook and Twitter. Rather, it accuses them of materially supporting the ISIS cause by providing the infrastructure for proselytizing and recruiting.

"Furthermore, defendants profit from ISIS by placing ads on ISIS' postings," the complaint noted. Google's model of sharing ad revenues with the publishers of videos on YouTube means in effect that the company is actually paying international terror organizations for their videos, families of the three victims claimed in the lawsuit.

Google and Twitter did not respond to separate requests for comment. In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said the company is committed to ensuring that people feel safe when using Facebook.

"There is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it's reported to us," the statement said.

The three companies, like other major Internet players, have been under increasing pressure to do more to ensure that ISIS and other terror and hate groups do not use their platforms for propaganda and other purposes.

In Google's case, the company has also received a lot of flak in recent months for permitting ads from major brands to run alongside terror videos and other objectionable material on YouTube. Google has admitted that its automated ad placement system on extremely rare occasions mistakenly places ads alongside objectionable content on YouTube and other digital properties.

In recent months, many major brands, including Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and AT&T, said they would withdraw their ads from Google over the issue. The company has initiated a series of measures aimed at alleviating the situation and giving advertisers better control over ad placement.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.