WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear two cases trying to hold social media companies financially responsible for terrorist attacks.
Relatives of people killed in terrorist attacks in France and Turkey had sued Google, Twitter and Facebook. They accused the companies of helping terrorists spread their message and radicalize new recruits.
The court will hear the cases this term, which began Monday, with a decision expected before the trials end in the summer, usually at the end of June. The court did not say when it would hear arguments, but the court has already filled its schedule with arguments in October and November.
One of the cases the judges will hear is Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American citizen who studies in Paris. The Cal State Long Beach student was one of 130 people killed in attacks by the Islamic State group in November 2015. The attackers hit coffee shops, outside the French national stadium and inside the Bataclan theater. González died in an attack at the La Belle Equipe bistro.
Gonzalez’s family sued Google, which owns YouTube, saying the platform had aided the Islamic State group by allowing it to post hundreds of videos that helped incite violence and recruit potential followers. Gonzalez’s relatives said the company’s computer algorithms recommended those videos to viewers most likely to be interested in them.
But a judge dismissed the case, and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Under US law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Internet companies are generally exempt from liability for material that users post on their networks.
The other case the court agreed to hear involves Jordanian national Nawras Alassaf. He died in the 2017 attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul where an Islamic State-affiliated gunman killed 39 people.
Alassaf’s relatives sued Twitter, Google and Facebook for aiding terrorism, arguing that the platforms helped grow the Islamic State and did not go far enough to try to curb terrorist activity on their platforms. A lower court allowed the case to continue.