An Illinois resident who was shot during terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 is suing Twitter, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, saying the companies’ policies allow organizing of and recruiting for such attacks in a manner that violates federal antiterrorism laws.
Mandy Palmucci filed her claim Feb. 14 in federal court in Chicago. She said she was vacationing in Nice, France, to run a marathon, and was spending a few days in Paris with friends when she became one of 400 people injured in a Nov. 13, 2015, ISIS-linked assault on Paris that left 130 others dead.
Palmucci said she was having drinks on a café patio and about to depart for dinner at 9:36 p.m. “when three ISIS terrorists … arrived in a black Seat Leon car, approached the La Belle Equipe Café and began spraying bullets.” She said the men shot for 90 seconds, pausing for 20 seconds to reload and shooting for another minute, killing 19 people.
Antonio Romanucci | Romanucci & Blandin LLC
Her complaint hinges on alleged violations of the 1992 Antiterrorism Act, which was amended by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, as well as the October 2001 Patriot Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. She said the social media platforms, for years, “have knowingly and recklessly provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits. This material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS.”
She said as of December 2014, ISIS had an estimated 70,000 Twitter accounts, at least 79 dedicated as official, posting at least 90 tweets per minute. She said ISIS also “embraced and used Google’s YouTube platform and services as a powerful tool for terrorism.” The complaint also said ISIS used the “platforms to celebrate the Paris attacks, to intensify the intimidation of the attacks, and to claim credit for the attacks.”
ISIS uses Twitter to solicit donations, Palmucci alleged, saying such pleas yield thousands of dollars and ISIS posts photos of items donated or purchased with donations. She also said Facebook declined to take down “a known ISIS terror group fan page that has nearly 6,000 members,” and detailed the type of ISIS propaganda disseminated on YouTube.
“Each defendant places ads on ISIS postings and derives revenue for the ad placement,” Palmucci alleged. “These ads … are targeted at the viewer using knowledge about the viewer as well as information about the content being viewed.”
She said ISIS has been open about the intent of its posting, and often uses separate accounts to post messages in Arabic, French, English and other languages. She said the companies “refused to actively monitor” social media networks and generally reviewed accounts only in response to third-party complaints. While some accounts were suspended or blocked, Palmucci alleged the companies did little to prevent ISIS from re-establishing the accounts using new names or identification.
The complaint cites several media reports about the use of social media to spread terrorism, as well as statements from terror agents about the efficacy of using social media and instructions for wielding its power.
In addition to a jury trial, Palmucci wants the court to award unspecified compensatory and treble damages.
Palmucci is represented in the matter by Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, of Chicago; and Excolo Law, PLLC, and Ari Kresch, both of Southfield, Mich.