Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh seek to conscript big tech into the war on terror; the results could be disastrous.
By Ian Millhiser Feb 16, 2023, 6:00am EST
In 2015, individuals affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS conducted a wave of violence and mass murder in Paris — killing 129 people. One of them was Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American student who died after ISIS assailants opened fire on the café where she and her friends were eating dinner.
A little more than a year later, on New Year’s Day 2017, a gunman opened fire inside a nightclub in Istanbul, killing 39 people — including a Jordanian national named Nawras Alassaf who has several American relatives. ISIS also claimed responsibility for this act of mass murder.
In response to these horrific acts, Gonzalez’s and Alassaf’s families brought federal lawsuits pinning the blame for these attacks on some very unlikely defendants. In Gonzalez v. Google, Gonzalez’s survivors claim that the tech giant Google should compensate them for the loss of their loved one. In a separate suit, Twitter v. Taamneh, Alassaf’s relatives make similar claims against Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
The thrust of both lawsuits is that websites like Twitter, Facebook, or Google-owned YouTube are legally responsible for the two ISIS killings because ISIS was able to post recruitment videos and other content on these websites that were not immediately taken down. The plaintiffs in both suits rely on a federal law that allows “any national of the United States” who is injured by an act of international terrorism to sue anyone who “aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance” to anyone who commits “such an act of international terrorism.”