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Shurat HaDin is suing Twitter due to the fact that they have taken almost no action against ISIS utilizing their services for terrorist purposes. As US Congressman Tim Poe declared in 2015, “Terrorists should not have access to an American controlled social media platform so that they can kill, rape, pillage and burn. Allowing terrorists to continue using Twitter has helped to radicalize hundreds of foreign fighters and raised millions of dollars for them.”
According to a press release by Shurat HaDin, the families of two ISIS terror victims are filing a ground-breaking anti-terrorism lawsuit against Twitter for its role in “aiding and abetting the terrorist organization that carried out mass causality attacks in Paris and Brussels, killing nearly 200 people and injuring hundreds more.”
The lawsuit is titled Cain v. Twitter, Inc. and is brought by Anne Cameron Cain, the American wife of Alex Pinczowski and sister-in-law of Sascha Pinczowski, who were killed in the Brussels Airport terror attack in March 2016 and by Beatriz Gonzalez, the mother of Nohemi Gonzalez, a Mexican American citizen that was studying abroad and who would have been the first in her family to graduate from university had she not been murdered in a coordinated terror attack orchestrated by ISIS in Paris in November 2015. The lawsuit details many unique ways in which ISIS has made special use of Twitter services as a weapon of terror including through bots, special apps and “hashtag highjacking” to inflate its image, recruit members, and to grow into the most feared terrorist organization in the world.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, told JerusalemOnline following the initiation of this lawsuit in New York: “This is the first lawsuit to document Twitter’s key role in the rise of ISIS to become the most feared terrorist organization in the world and to detail how ISIS used Twitter specifically in connection with two of the worst terror attacks in Europe’s recent history. Among social media platforms, Twitter has most brazenly refused to cut off its services to terrorists, taking the position that ‘the tweets must flow’ even if it means assisting in mass murders. This lawsuit reveals direct connections between Twitter and terror, and when justice is done in this case, it will force Twitter and others to conclude that supporting terror does not pay.”
According to the legal documents submitted by Shurat HaDin, Twitter played a significant role in the rise of ISIS across the world. While Al Qaeda relied mainly upon traditional Arabic media outlets such as Al Jazeera in order to spread its messages to a greater audience, ISIS prefers to rely upon social media sites such as Twitter so that their horrific messages can reach civilian population centers in the West as well as potential supporters completely unfiltered: “ISIS’s use of violence and threats of violence is calculated and intended to have an effect far beyond the individual victims of an attack. ISIS uses terror attacks as a means to communicate and accomplish its wider objectives. The impact and effect of ISIS terrorist attacks are dependent upon ISIS’s abilities to communicate its messages and reach its intended audiences without intermediaries and without interference. Twitter provides ISIS with a unique and powerful communication tool to achieve these goals. ISIS thus uses Twitter to carry out the essential communication components of ISIS terror attacks.”
The Shurat HaDin legal document noted that ISIS propaganda on Twitter played a pivotal role in assisting the murderous terror group achieve its publicity objectives before, during and after both the Brussels 2016 and Paris 2015 terror attacks. According to them, ISIS utilizes Twitter in order to fundraise, recruit terrorists and to spread fear in the West. Since Twitter has given them an uncensored platform, they were able to use this in order to ensure that the entire world was exposed to their propaganda before, during and after the murderous terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.
For example, in September 2014, ISIS utilized Twitter in order to vocalize the following threat to the West: “We will invade your Rome, break your Cross and enslave your women. And if we do not achieve to do this, our sons and grandsons will and they will sell your sons and grandsons as slaves.” The following month, ISIS posted a direct threat to France, stressing: “You will not be safe anywhere in France or in other countries. We will make appeals to all our brothers who live in France to kill any civilian. You won’t be safe.” Furthermore, at least 4 ISIS linked social media accounts began sharing images 72 hours before the Paris terror attacks in 2015 that included images of weapons, the Eiffel Tower and statements such as “May God bless you on your mission.”
During the Paris terror attacks, ISIS tweeted using the hashtags #paris_ignites, #parisinflames, and #franceisonfire, proclaiming, “O crusaders, we are coming to you with bombs and fire. Wait for us.” Afterwards, ISIS utilized Twitter in order to take responsibility for the Paris terror attacks, to praise the terrorists who implemented them and to justify the Paris terror attacks. According to Shurat HaDin, ISIS also utilized Twitter in order to glorify the 2016 Brussels terror attacks: “ISIS used Twitter in order to distribute a video called ‘The Exile of Islam and the Brussels attacks’ that shows scenes from the bombings of the Brussels Airport and Maalbeck Metro Station.’” The same video also includes jihadi music proclaiming: “Brothers rise up! Claim your victory! Hahaha! Let’s go for jihad!” These are only a few of the many instances in which ISIS exploited Twitter in order to achieve its publicity objectives.
According to Shurat HaDin, even though Twitter has known for years that ISIS members have been utilizing its services for terrorist purposes and that the US government recognizes them to be a foreign terror group, they have not taken any substantial action against them. Only if certain tweets are reported retroactively and only in countries where such speech is against the law will twitter take action but even in those cases, they won’t remove the content from countries where such laws are not applicable. Twitter’s General Consul Alex Macgillvary justified the Twitter policy as follows: “We don’t always agree with the things that people choose to tweet but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we might have of the content. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information.” Shurat HaDin stressed that this policy has sabotaged counter-terror efforts and Twitter’s lack of cooperation on this issue is illegal for US law bars Americans from providing any kind of service to terror organizations. Moreover, in May 2016, Twitter barred the American intelligence from utilizing special technology in order to pursue counter-terrorist activity on their social media platform. Furthermore, when the Anonymous group started a campaign to report ISIS members utilizing the social media platform, Twitter permitted the core of the ISIS terrorist twitter accounts to remain active but proceeded to shut down a number of Anonymous affiliated accounts for “harassing ISIS members.”
As the UK House of Commons Home Committee proclaimed in a 2016 report, “The use of the internet to promote radicalism and terrorism is one of the great threats that countries face. Social media companies are consciously failing to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism and killings. Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the vehicles in choice in spreading propaganda and they have become the recruiting platforms for terrorism. They must accept that hundreds of millions generated in revenues generated from people using their products need to be accompanied by a greater sense of responsibility and ownership for the impact that extremist material on their sites is having. It is therefore alarming that Twitter does not proactively report extremist content to law enforcement agencies.”
As US Congressman Tim Poe declared in 2015, “Federal law prohibits giving aid or helping a designated foreign terrorist organization. These foreign terrorist organizations use Twitter, an American company, as a tool and no one is stopping them. Why are American companies and the US government allowing social media platforms to be hijacked by terrorists? It is time for Twitter to take down terrorist accounts. Terrorists should not have access to an American controlled social media platform so that they can kill, rape, pillage and burn. Allowing terrorists to continue using Twitter has helped to radicalize hundreds of foreign fighters and raised millions of dollars for them. Private companies not only have a public responsibility but legal obligation to be proactive. Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that it is unlawful to provide a designated foreign terrorist organization like ISIS with material support and resources including any services. That is about as comprehensive as it gets. You don’t need to be a law school professor to understand that this law actually applies to Twitter.”