A Supreme Court case addressing when online platforms can be held liable for aiding and abetting terrorism.
On December 5, 2022, the Knight Institute joined in filing an amicus brief in Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, a Supreme Court case addressing the scope of aiding-and-abetting liability for online platforms.
The Taamneh lawsuit was filed by relatives of Nawras Alassaf, a victim of the 2017 ISIS attack at a Turkish nightclub. Unable to hold ISIS accountable, Alassaf’s family sued Twitter, alleging that, because ISIS had used Twitter to expand its reach, and because Twitter knew that ISIS had done so and had failed to take sufficient countermeasures, Twitter had aided and abetted an act of international terrorism. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit could go forward, holding that an online platform with generalized knowledge that a terrorist organization used its service could be held liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Twitter petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case, and the Supreme Court agreed.
Cooley LLP filed the amicus brief on behalf of the Knight Institute, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the ACLU, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the R Street Institute, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The brief warns that an overly expansive interpretation of aiding-and-abetting liability would cause social media platforms to take down constitutionally protected speech for fear of legal liability. The brief argues that courts should allow such liability only when platforms like Twitter have actual knowledge that a specific post, video, or other piece of user-generated content provides substantial assistance to a terrorist act.
Status: On May 18, 2023, the Supreme Court held that the social media platforms may not be held liable for aiding and abetting an ISIS terrorist attack unless they knowingly assisted the specific attack.
Case Information: Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh, No. 21-1496 (Supreme Court).