- Issue 1 - December 2017, Volume 46

WHEN YOU GIVE A TERRORIST A TWITTER: HOLDING SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES LIABLE FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF TERRORISM

Comment by: Anna Elisabeth Jayne Goodman

46 PEPP. L. REV. 147 (2018)

In the electronic age, the internet—and—social media specifically, can be a tool for good but, abused and unchecked, can lead to great harm. Terrorist organizations utilize social media as a means of recruiting and training new members, urging them to action, and creating public terror. These platforms serve as the catalyst for equipping the growing number of “lone wolf” attackers taking action across the United States. Under civil liability provisions created under JASTA and the ATA, material supporters of terrorism can be held liable for their actions, and with the key role social media sites now play in supporting terrorism, they should certainly be subjected to liability under this provision. Conflicting case law regarding causation and the “internet provider shield” provided by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act have largely precluded this liability to date. However, national security and counter-terror concerns counsel application of liability in the social media context, and an analysis of the law shows that it could be done without infringing in any way on the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Through both judicial and legislative means, changes can be made to create greater responsibility for these social media companies in the future, fostering an environment that will help to limit the currently increasing number of social media-incited attacks and hold social media companies appropriately responsible when their actions are the catalyst for a significant loss of life.

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