Suit: Pulse Survivors Claim Facebook, Twitter, Google Aided ISIS - NBC10 Boston
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Suit: Pulse Survivors Claim Facebook, Twitter, Google Aided ISIS

The lawsuit accuses the tech companies of “aiding and abetting” the terror group ISIS

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    Widow of Pulse Nightclub Shooter Acquitted

    Noor Salman, the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people in an attack on an Orlando nightclub, was found not guilty on all federal charges stemming from the June 2016 mass shooting. NBC 6's Tony Pipitone reports. (Published Friday, March 30, 2018)

    Over a dozen survivors of the 2016 deadly mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub are suing social media sites Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google-owned YouTube, accusing the tech companies of “aiding and abetting” the terror group ISIS.

    The lawsuit, filed by 16 survivors in federal court in Orlando on Wednesday, claims the sites helped support and profited from the terrorist group by placing ads on ISIS posts and "deriving revenue for those ads," according to NBC affiliate WESH-TV.

    "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,” the suit claims, noting ISIS promoted and carried out "terror activities" on the platforms.  

    The lawsuit also claims that the social media giants allowed ISIS and its media arm to "openly maintain" accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while refusing to actively monitor or block them. But months before the Orlando attack, Twitter began taking steps to crack down on extremist content, announcing in Feburary 2016 that it was shutting down more than 125,000 accounts.

    On Thursday, Twitter reported that over 1.2 million accounts had been suspended since August 2015 for violations related to the promotion of terrorism. The company's public policy report also noted that of the 274,460 accounts suspended during the reporting period of July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017 , 93 percent were flagged internally and 74 percent of those accounts were suspended before their first tweet.

    "We continue to see the positive, significant impact of years of hard work making our site an undesirable place for those seeking to promote terrorism, resulting in this type of activity increasingly shifting away from Twitter," the social media site said in a blog post.

    YouTube said in an emailed statement to NBC that the company takes its role in tackling extremism online "very seriously," and "never want terrorists to have a voice, or spread extremist material on our services."

    "Our hearts go out to the victims of terrorism and their families everywhere," the statement added.

    In a statement, a spokeswoman for Facebook said that the platform uses photo, video and text-based technology to flag and remove any content that expresses support for terrorist activities. 

    “We are committed to providing a service where people feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it’s reported to us. We sympathize with the victims and their families,” the statement read.  

    Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured dozens more at the popular gay nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of June 12. During the attack, Mateen called 911 and told the operator that he pledged allegiance to ISIS.

    Mateen was killed in a shootout with police. 

    A similar lawsuit filed in 2016 by families of victims and survivors was dismissed last week. A Michigan judge ruled that there was no legal merit to claims that Mateen became radicalized by items he found online.

    The ruling came the same day Mateen's widow, Noor Salmen, was found not guilty of aiding and abetting her husband and obstruction of justice.