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Three Pulse Victims' Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, Google

Pulse nightclub

They claim the media platforms enabled ISIS, the terrorist group to which gunman Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance.

The families of three people killed in the June mass shooting at the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando are suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google, saying the media companies made it too easy for the terrorist group ISIS to spread its message.

Omar Mateen, the gunman responsible for killing 49 people and wounding 53 others in the June 12 attack, and who died in a shootout with police, was not affiliated with ISIS but reportedly supported its goals. ISIS -- formally the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or alternatively the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- adheres to an ultraconservative form of Islam and considers gay people worthy of death.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Michigan, according to Fox News, which was the first to report the story. It was brought by the families of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes, and Juan Ramon Guerrero, represented by attorney Keith Altman.

Without the use of Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube, "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 lawsuit claims.

The suit has a major hurdle to clear in federal law, though. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, internet companies are not legally responsible for what users post on their sites.

Altman argues, however, that the media services in question actually are content creators. "The defendants create unique content by matching ISIS postings with advertisements based upon information known about the viewer," he told Fox News. "Furthermore, the defendants finance ISIS's activities by sharing advertising revenue."

The companies usually take down content from ISIS or other terrorist groups and deactivate the user's account, but Altman said the terror organizations respond by taking out new accounts almost immediately.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft recently announced a plan to "share a database of terror images and videos to more quickly remove terrorism content," USA Today notes.

Altman has also sued Facebook, Google, and Twitter on behalf of the family of California college student Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, USA Today reports. That suit was filed in June.

Facebook officials declined comment on the Pulse suit, according to the paper, while Google and Twitter did not respond to requests by publication time.

There are some alternative theories about Mateen's motivation. Mateen's first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has said she believes he was secretly gay and targeted Pulse to impress his father, Seddique Mateen, who had expressed antigay sentiments, and some people have reported seeing him at Pulse or other gay bars, or on gay hookup sites. Others, including his father and his second wife, Noor Salman, have said he was not gay. And according to the FBI, Mateen said he wanted to be an "Islamic soldier," and the transcript of a 911 call has him pledging allegiance to ISIS. The FBI has also said he did not target Pulse because of its LGBT clientele, and it does not consider the attack a hate crime.

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