Relatives of Orlando nightclub victims sue Facebook, Twitter and Google | News | DW | 21.12.2016
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United States

Relatives of Orlando nightclub victims sue Facebook, Twitter and Google

The families of several victims killed during the June shooting rampage at a Florida gay club have sued three major social media companies, claiming the companies provided "material support" to the killer.

Relatives of three men killed in a shooting rampage at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in June have sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, claiming the killer was radicalized through social media.

The families of Tevin Crosby, Juan Ramon Guerrero Jr. and Javier Jorge-Reyes filed the complaint on Monday, arguing that terrorist groups such as the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) use social media platforms to spread propaganda, raise funds and recruit potential militants such as Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter.

On June 12, the 29-year-old Mateen opened fire at Pulse nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. After the attack, authorities revealed that Mateen had pledged allegiance to IS during a phone call with a police dispatcher shortly before the massacre.

The families in the suit are seeking an undisclosed amount of money under a federal law that allows family members of terror attack victims to sue those who provide "material support" to terrorists.

Omar Mateen (Imago/ZUMA Press)

Mateen pledged allegiance to the "Islamic State"

Facebook responds

According to the suit, "material support has been instrumental to the rise of [IS] and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out numerous terrorist attacks."

Facebook has denied responsibility. "Our community standards make clear that 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," the company said in a statement. "We sympathize with the victims and their families."

Representatives from Twitter and Google either declined to comment or didn't respond after multiple news agencies contacted them.

Technology companies in the US are typically protected from such lawsuits under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which says website operators are not liable for content posted by others.

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