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Father of Paris terror victim sues Facebook, Twitter, and Google for enabling ISIS

Lawsuit claims web companies provided 'material support' to terrorist group, but Facebook and Twitter say it's 'without merit'

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A man whose daughter was killed in the November terrorist attacks in Paris has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google for providing "material support" to ISIS. Reynaldo Gonzalez filed the suit in a California federal court on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports, alleging that the companies "knowingly" allowed ISIS to raise money, spread propaganda, and recruit militants on their platforms.

The lawsuit is very similar to a civil suit filed against Twitter in January. That lawsuit was filed by a woman whose husband was killed during a terrorist attack in Amman, Jordan, and Gonzalez's suit includes identical screenshots and passages. Gonzalez's 23-year-old daughter, Nohemi, was among the 130 people who were killed in coordinated attacks across the Paris area in November.

Facebook and Twitter say the case is "without merit"

Under the Communications Decency Act, web companies are typically not held liable for the content that users publish on their platforms. But the lawsuit filed this week targets Facebook, Twitter, and Google for simply enabling the rise of ISIS, rather than the explicit content that the terrorist group publishes online. Without the three companies, the lawsuit argues, "the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible." The complaint also alleges that ISIS and Google-owned YouTube shared advertising revenue on videos that the terrorist group posted.

"This complaint is not about what ISIS’s messages say," Ari Kresch, one of Gonzalez's attorneys, said in an email to the Associated Press. "It is about Google, Twitter and Facebook allowing ISIS to use their social media networks for recruitment and operations."

Facebook and Twitter said Gonzalez's case is "without merit" in statements provided to the Associated Press, while Google declined to comment on pending litigation. In their statements, all three companies pointed to their own policies that prohibit the publication of extremist material.

As ISIS continues to use social media to recruit members and inspire attacks, internet companies have come under increased pressure in Europe and the US to crack down on the group's propaganda. This week, FBI Director James Comey said that Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, was likely radicalized by extremist material published online. In a speech delivered following the Orlando attack, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on tech companies to "step up" their fight against ISIS propaganda.