The Supreme Court Appears to Support Tech Giants in the Terror Case

Wednesday, the Supreme Court appeared suspicious of a lawsuit seeking to hold social media corporations liable for a 39-person terrorist attack on a Turkish nightclub.

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court, multiple justices emphasized that there was no direct proof connecting Twitter, Facebook, and Google to the 2017 attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul. The family of a man slain in the incident alleges that the firms helped and abetted the crime by contributing to the expansion of the Islamic State organization, which claimed responsibility for the attack. A lower court let the litigation continue.

The court’s ruling on Wednesday’s case and a related case it heard the day before is significant, especially because the firms have been sheltered from responsibility on the internet, allowing them to become the behemoths they are today.

If the court prevents the litigation involving the attack in Turkey from proceeding, a significant judgment on the firms’ legal immunity could be avoided. This outcome would maintain the current system but would leave the door open for the justices to revisit the matter in a future case.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett was one of the court members who said that the litigation against the firms lacks the specificity required by a federal anti-terrorism statute. Barrett stated that the lawsuit would require specific claims, “not simply generic recruitment or radicalization of people.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch, participating remotely for the second consecutive day due to illness, told an attorney for the family that he was “struggling with how your complaint aligns with the three requirements of the statute” that the companies knowingly assisted a terrorist in committing an act of terrorism.

The relevant law is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which permits Americans injured by a terrorist assault overseas to claim monetary damages in federal court. Family members of Nawras Alassaf, who was killed in the Reina nightclub incident, filed a lawsuit against Twitter, Facebook, and the parent company of YouTube, Google.