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Supreme Court Clears Twitter Of Charge It Is Liable For ISIS Attack

Twitter will not have to face accusations that it aided and abetted terrorism when it hosted tweets created by the terror group ISIS, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The court also dismissed a closely watched case about social media content moderation in a case involving Google, skipping a decision that legal experts warned might have upended the internet, CNN reports. The rulings are wins for Twitter and other tech platforms that have faced lawsuits from critics who allege they should be held legally responsible for societal harms, including terrorist attacks. The unanimous Twitter ruling was written by Justice Clarence Thomas. The court held that Twitter’s hosting of general terrorist speech does not create indirect legal responsibility for specific terrorist attacks, effectively raising the bar for future claims. The Twitter ruling was a major defeat for tech critics who say social media platforms must be held accountable with the threat of more lawsuits.


“We conclude,” Thomas wrote, “that plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to establish that these defendants aided and abetted ISIS in carrying out the relevant attack.” He stressed that the plaintiffs have “failed to allege that defendants intentionally provided any substantial aid” to the attack at issue, nor did they “pervasively and systemically” assist ISIS in a way that would render them liable for “every ISIS attack.” In carrying terrorist speech, social media platforms are little different from other digital technologies, Thomas said. “It might be that bad actors like ISIS are able to use platforms like defendants’ for illegal – and sometimes terrible – ends,” Thomas wrote. “But the same could be said of cell phones, email, or the internet generally.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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