A lawsuit by victims’ family members in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., who accused Twitter, Facebook and Google of helping radicalize the shooter in the June 2016 massacre, has been dismissed by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson rejected the theory that gunman Omar Mateen became radicalized after social media platforms offered him ready access to ISIS propaganda. Lawson wrote that there was no evidence of a link between what Mateen saw online and his actions in the shooting, “other than that the principles espoused in them motivated Mateen to carry out the dreadful act.” The massacre at the gay nightclub, which killed 49 people and injured 53, was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Lawson issued the order to dismiss the suit on Friday, at the same time a jury acquitted Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.
Family members of nine victims and four survivors of the nightclub shooting filed their suit in December 2016. It claimed that the tech companies “conspired” with the Islamic State to commit the attack. The companies knew “that ISIS members and its official news outlets use numerous accounts” on social media to “publish the organization’s messages and to recruit and ‘radicalize’ persons such as Mateen,” the complaint said.
Although they prevailed in the Pulse case, tech giants are finding it increasingly difficult to make the argument that they are neutral conduits for information. Facebook has seen tens of billions of dollars of its market capitalization evaporate after revelations of its ties to data research firm Cambridge Analytica, which improperly accessed users’ personal information.