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Twitter, Google, Facebook Not Liable to Dallas Shooting Victim

June 17, 2021, 2:26 PM

Twitter, Google, and Facebook aren’t liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act for aiding and abetting Hamas to radicalize a mass shooter in Dallas, the Fifth Circuit said.

Jesus Retana was a police officer in 2016 when he and 13 other Dallas police officers were shot during a mass shooting. He and his husband claimed that the shooter, Micah Johnson, was radicalized against police officers by Hamas after reading its propaganda and watching its videos on the social media platforms.

The Anti-Terrorism Act extends liability to anyone who knowingly provides assistance to a person who commits “an act of international terrorism,” the opinion by Judge Jacques L. Wiener Jr. said.

Hamas is designated a global terrorist organization and uses its social media accounts to contact potential recruits, the court said. But an act of international terrorism occurs primarily outside the U.S. or transcends national boundaries, it said.

Because Johnson acted alone and the shooting took place completely within the U.S., it wasn’t an act of international terrorism, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said Wednesday.

The complaint also didn’t sufficiently allege that the internet platforms knowingly assisted Johnson or Hamas, the court said. It only made conclusory statements that the platforms were “generally aware” of the role Hamas allegedly played in the shooting, it said.

Judges Gregg J. Costa and Don R. Willett joined the opinion.

Keith L. Altman of Farmington Hills, Mich., represented Retana. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP represented Twitter. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC and Vinson & Elkins LLP represented Google. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represented Facebook.

The case is Retana v. Twitter Inc., 2021 BL 225558, 5th Cir., No. 19-11389, 6/16/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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