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The Supreme Court will hear two cases seeking to hold social media companies financially liable for terrorist attacks

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear two cases seeking to hold social media companies financially liable for terror attacks. Relatives of people killed in terror attacks in France and Turkey have sued Google, Twitter and Facebook, accusing the companies of helping terrorists spread their message and radicalizing new recruits.

The court will hear the cases this term, which began Monday, with a decision expected before the court’s summer recess, usually in late June. The court did not say when it would hear arguments, but the court has already filled its argument schedule for October and November.

One of the cases the judges will hear involves Nohemi Gonzalez, 23-year-old American citizen studying in Paris. The Cal State Long Beach student was one of 130 people killed in ISIS attacks in November 2015. The attackers targeted cafes, outside the French National Stadium and inside the Bataclan theater. González was killed in an attack at the La Belle Equipe bistro.

Her friend, Cal State student Niran Jayasiri, may have been the last to see González alive, standing next to her in the cafe as a terrorist opened fire.

Nohemi Gonzalez
Nohemi Gonzalez

“First I thought they were firecrackers because it sounded like firecrackers,” Jayasiri told CBS News in 2015. “When I looked in the direction the noise was coming from, I saw an armed man walking down the sidewalk, shooting everyone.”

Gonzalez’s relatives sued Google, which owns YouTube, saying the platform had aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, by allowing it to post hundreds of videos that helped incite violence and recruit potential sympathizers. Gonzalez’s relatives said the company’s computer algorithms recommended those videos to viewers who were most likely to be interested in them.

But a judge dismissed the case and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Under US law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Internet companies are generally exempt from liability for material that users post on their networks.

The other case the court has agreed to hear involves Jordanian national Nawras Alassaf. He was killed in the 2017 attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, where an ISIS-affiliated gunman killed 39 people.

Alassaf’s relatives sued Twitter, Google and Facebook for aiding terrorism, arguing that the platforms helped ISIS grow and did not go far enough to try to curb terrorist activity on their platforms. A lower court allowed the case to proceed.

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