Illinois woman sues Twitter, Google, Facebook for ‘aiding’ growth of ISIS
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Mandy Palmucci traveled to France in the fall of 2015 to run a marathon.
Before returning to the United States, the Illinois woman visited Paris. And on Nov. 13, 2015, she stopped in a café with her friends, records show.
That’s when three ISIS terrorists — including a man once seen on YouTube saying “it’s nice to see from time to time, the blood of infidels” — attacked. The woman and her friends dropped to the ground and linked arms. Their arms shook. Their bodies jerked so hard Palmucci thought the bullets had hit her. And she still remembers the screams.
That account of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris is contained in a new lawsuit Palmucci filed in federal court in Chicago aimed at Twitter, Facebook and Google. It accuses all three — as well Google’s YouTube — of not just aiding, but profiting from, ISIS’ use of their websites.
Without the social media platforms, the “growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,” it alleges.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We sympathize with the victims and their families for their great loss. We are committed to providing a service where people feel safe when using Facebook. 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.”
Representatives of Twitter and Google did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Palmucci’s complaint comes on the heels of a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the dismissal of a similar lawsuit in federal court in California. But Palmucci’s lawyer, Keith Altman, said the new lawsuit raises issues that weren’t raised out West. He believes the law in the 7th U.S. Circuit, which includes Illinois, is favorable.
And he said the social media sites he’s targeted are “built off of not being accountable for anything that happens on their sites.”
“It’s a total free for all,” Altman said.
Palmucci, an internet technology consultant from the Chicago area, survived the attack at the LaBelle Equipe café that killed 19, according to the lawsuit. However, it said she suffers severe psychological and emotional harm.
She filed her lawsuit Wednesday, citing the Antiterrorism Act.
It alleges that ISIS accounts on Twitter have grown “at an astonishing rate” and that, as of December 2014, the terrorism group had roughly 70,000 Twitter accounts — 79 officially — posting 90 tweets a minute.
It said ISIS used the platforms “to specifically threaten France that it would be attacked for participating in a coalition of nations against ISIS, to celebrate smaller attacks leading up to these major attacks, and to transform the operational leaders of the Paris attacks into ‘celebrity’ among jihadi terrorists.”
The 128-page complaint lays out ISIS’ historical use of social media sites, citing among other cases the beheading of American journalist James Foley that appeared on YouTube in August 2014.
The lawsuit alleges not only that the social media sites give the group “a sense of authenticity and legitimacy,” but that it is a vehicle for ISIS to seek out financial donations. Additionally, it alleges the companies “routinely profit from ISIS” through ads on ISIS postings that “are not placed randomly.”
Note: The story above has been changed from its original version to accurately reflect whom Palmucci was with at the time of the attack. The original description in the story was based on inaccurate information contained in the lawsuit.