Widow of US police officer sues Twitter for allowing ISIS to use its services

Twitter, like other social media sites, has been under increasing pressure to quickly remove posts by terrorist groups.
Twitter, like other social media sites, has been under increasing pressure to quickly remove posts by terrorist groups.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Twitter was accused in a lawsuit by the widow of a man killed at a police training centre in Jordan of knowingly allowing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to spread its terrorist message through its service.

Twitter, like other social media sites, has been under increasing pressure to quickly remove posts by terrorist groups, including ISIS. As fast as Twitter deletes such accounts, new ones typically spring up with the same propaganda messages, including video of attacks and beheadings.

Mr Lloyd "Carl" Fields Jr. was killed with four others in a "lone wolf" attack at a police training centre in Amman in November, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday (Jan 13) in San Francisco federal court. His wife Tamara Fields said in her complaint that Twitter knowingly allows ISIS to use its platform.

"Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," she said in the complaint.

Ms Fields accuses Twitter of providing material support to terrorism and seeks compensatory damages plus a ruling that Twitter is violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.

Twitter complied with 42 per cent of the 1,003 global content removal requests received from January to June last year, according to the company's biannual transparency report.

Twenty-five of those requests came from the US government and law enforcement agencies. Twitter said it did not comply with any of those requests. 

"While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family's terrible loss," Twitter said in an e-mail. "Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear."

Last week, the Obama administration announced the creation of a task force to help prevent extremist groups from using social media to radicalise and mobilise recruits. Twitter is one of the Internet companies that has been involved in a battle with the US Justice Department over spy agency requests for user data.

Under federal law, Internet companies are not allowed to reveal anything about the subpoenas, except the number of them they receive in broad ranges.