Widow Sues Twitter For Allowing ISIS Speech

Published: January 14, 2016 10:34 PM /


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Tamara Fields, the widow of an American who was killed in a terrorist attack in Jordan, has filed a lawsuit against Twitter for allowing ISIS to use its platform to spread propaganda and recruit members. Her husband, Lloyd fields, was killed in November while he was in the country as a contractor to train police officers. The Florida woman claims that Twitter has given ISIS an "unfettered" ability to maintain accounts. In December of last year, Twitter updated its policy to prohibit "hateful conduct," a move seemingly brought on by pressure from the government for Twitter to do more to crack down on speech promoting terrorism. Before that time, Twitter had done almost nothing to curtail the numerous ISIS accounts that proliferated on the platform.

The lawsuit is based on the Anti-Terrorism Act, which prohibits providing material support to terrorists. Joshua Arisohn, a partner at the firm representing Fields, believes they can easily win the case by proving Twitter has knowingly provided support to ISIS, and that this support played a role in the death of Fields' husband. Fields herself stated that Twitter aided ISIS "knowingly or with willful blindness" because the company had allegedly ignored requests by Congress to do more to keep the terrorist group off the platform.

Despite the optimism from Fields and her firm, others are less confident about the case. Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former U.S. Treasury Department official specializing in terrorist financing, stated that, "Social media plays an important role in allowing ISIS to recruit foreign fighters," but he added, "But at the end of the day, is there a sufficient nexus between ISIS' use of Twitter and acts of terror? I'm not saying you can't show it but it's a real challenge."

Skepticism also comes from Gary Osen, a lawyer who successfully convinced a jury to hold Arab Bank accountable for handling financial transactions for Hamas. He states there is "no question" the Anti-Terrorism Act applies in Fields case, but believes it will be tough for them to prove "knowledge or willful blindness."

Twitter issued the following statement on this matter, "While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family's terrible loss. Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear."

Should Twitter be punished for giving terrorists a platform, or are they doing enough to take down ISIS propaganda? Leave your comments below.


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I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.