Lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), and Alphabet Inc.’s Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) liable to victims of the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California have been dismissed by a federal judge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco issued the decision. Beeler dismissed the lawsuits with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again.
The Dec. 2, 2015 attack was carried out by Syed Farook, 28, a U.S.-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, a native of Pakistan. The assailants opened fire at a holiday office party at a government building, killing 14 people and injuring 22 others. On the day of the massacre, Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook. ISIS claimed responsibility even though the militant group apparently had no direct contact with the attackers.
The lawsuit accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of knowingly supporting ISIS by letting the militant group flourish on their social media platforms. The plaintiffs argued that ISIS used the tech companies “as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.” They wrote in the lawsuit: “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.”
Beeler found that the attack was not the direct result of the companies’ alleged providing of resources to Islamic State. Beeler also found no liability for aiding and abetting terrorism under the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Federal law gives internet companies broad immunity from liability for content posted by users. Other courts have rejected similar claims in other cases. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Keith Altman, says he plans to file an appeal.