SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A police officer who responded to the 2016 mass shooting in Dallas that killed five of his colleagues last year has sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, accusing their services of conspiring to aid and abet terrorism.
Dallas Police Sgt. Demetrick Pennie was not shot during the July 7, 2016, carnage, but he was a first responder and is president of the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation.
Pennie filed a 62-page federal lawsuit Tuesday, accusing the tech giants of conspiracy, aiding and abetting and providing material support to terrorism.
It’s not the first such lawsuit blaming social media for supporting terrorism, though none have been successful.
Pennie’s attorney, Keith Altman, of Southfield, Mich., filed a lawsuit in December on behalf three victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, that killed 49 people.
“We can’t keep seeing these terrorist acts … all of which have a social media connection,” Altman said. He speculated that that Twitter, Facebook and Google will claim no liability for the content of posts and said he expects the issue eventually will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Micah Johnson killed five Dallas police officers and injured nine as a protest over police killings of black men in other states was ending. Johnson, Afghan war veteran, was particularly upset by the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philandro Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. Police killed Johnson by detonating a remotely operated bomb.
Pennies claims in his lawsuit that “without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), Hamas’ ability to radicalize and influence individuals to conduct terrorist operations outside the Middle East would not have been possible.”
Citing the Brookings Institution, Pennie says, “ISIS ‘has exploited social media, most notoriously Twitter, to send its propaganda and messaging out to the world and to draw in people vulnerable to radicalization.’”
He claims the defendants enable ISIS to “‘exert an outsized impact on how the world perceives it, by disseminating images of graphic violence (including beheading of Western journalists and aid workers) … while using social media to attract new recruits and inspire lone actor attacks.’”
The lawsuit cites FBI Director James Comey and says, “ISIS has perfected its use of defendants’ sites to inspire small-scale individual attacks ‘to crowdsource terrorism’ and ‘to sell murder.’”
Pennie blames the “astonishing rate” of growth of ISIS on this crowdsourced terrorism. He cites two Hamas Twitter accounts dating to 2010, one with 281,000 followers and the other with 9,593, and says well-known ISIS and Hamas members have maintained accounts.
Pennie says Hamas also has used Facebook and Google’s YouTube, and that all the companies are “fully aware that Hamas and other extremist groups use their sites to conduct terrorist operations.”
He claims Hamas has extended its marketing reach via social media, which it has used for fund raising, and that Facebook shares advertising revenues with the terrorist organization.
He seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants violate the Anti-Terrorism Act, and damages for conspiracy, aiding and abetting and prviding material support to terrorism, and emotional distress.
Altman, with the 1-800-Law-Firm, said any money Pennie might win in the case would go to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation.
Twitter, Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday morning.
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