In November, Tamara Fields lost her husband, Lloyd. He was killed in Jordan by a lone wolf attacker and police captain named Anwar Abu Zeid, who was reportedly inspired by ISIS. Lloyd was one of five people murdered that day, and the terrorists ultimately claimed responsibility.
Now, Tamara claims that if not for Twitter, her husband would alive, ABC News reported. And if not for Twitter, ISIS wouldn’t be as powerful and dangerous.
Fields has sued, claiming that at the time of her husband’s death, the Islamic State had 70,000 Twitter accounts and posted 90 tweets per minute, the complaint states. Tamara’s attorney has said this activity played a substantial role in Lloyd’s death and that it could’ve been foreseen.
“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. This material support has been instrumental to (their) rise and has enabled it to carry out numerous terrorist attacks.”
The extremists use social media, to great effect, in order to spread its message, Reuters reports. Its official PR group, Al-Hayat Media Center, operates six accounts meant to lure Westerners, and uses the platform to raise money, attract recruits, and spread propaganda.
Tamara Fields claims that the company allows this activity to persist, facilitating small-scale attacks and providing a platform to “crowdsource terrorism” and “sell murder.” She has essentially accused Twitter of facilitating the spread of ISIS’ message.
In 2014, founder Biz Stone responded to similar accusations by saying that “if you want to create a platform that allows for the freedom of expression for hundreds of millions of people around the world, you really have to take the good with the bad.”
According to Tamara’s lawsuit, Twitter hasn’t really done too much to curtail terrorism activity over the years, pushing back against requests from Congress and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others to prevent the terror group from posting online.
According to Reuters, an online “transparency report” for the company has shown that they didn’t fulfill any of the 25 requests from government or law enforcement officials to remove posts in the first half of last year. The company prides itself for being a free speech defender and is loathe to censor its users.
Fields has gone so far as to say Twitter helped the Islamic State “knowingly or with willful blindness.”
Now that she’s sued Twitter, Fields is seeking triple damages for its alleged violation of the federal Anti-Terrorism Act by providing the group with material support. Her lawyer, Joshua Arisohn, thinks this may be the first time anyone has sued a social media company.
David Greene, civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights group, described the lawsuit as an attempt to stop Twitter from providing to the Islamic State “the same service they provide the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is now working to crack down on extremist groups’ use of the Internet via a new task force. Discussions between technology executives in Silicon Valley and national security officials are underway to determine what can be done.
“Social media plays an important role in allowing ISIS to recruit foreign fighters,” said Jimmy Gurule, an expert in terrorist financing. “But at the end of the day, is there a sufficient nexus between (their) use of Twitter and acts of terror? I’m not saying you can’t show it but it’s a real challenge.”
Now that Twitter has been sued for supporting terrorism, critics are quick to point out that the solution isn’t quite as easy as it seems, even if Tamara Fields has a point, The Hill noted. Intelligence experts are worried that they’ll lose a major source of information, while civil liberties activists are concerned that silencing the extremists will inadvertently silence people who use Twitter to speak out in countries where free speech is limited.
As for Twitter, they responded to being sued by saying the action was “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.”
Do you think Twitter should be sued? Have they supported terrorists by allowing them to tweet freely?
[Photo by STR/AP]