June 2021

On June 16, 2021, the Fifth Circuit held that social media providers cannot be held secondarily liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”) for aiding and abetting a foreign terrorist organization based on an individual’s acts within the United States.   Plaintiff Retana, a victim of the July 2016 shooting committed by Micah Johnson (“Johnson”) in Dallas, Texas, along with his husband (together “Plaintiffs”) sued several social media companies (“Defendants”) alleging that Defendants were secondarily liable for Retana’s injuries under the ATA because “they provided material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization that used Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson to carry out the Dallas shooting.” Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were secondarily liable under the ATA because Johnson was radicalized by Hamas’ posts and posts of other hate groups, such as the African American Defense League, since Johnson “liked” their pages. Five days prior to the shooting, Johnson also posted a “rant” against white people on social media, and, four days later the African American Defense League posted that it was “time to act.”

As influencer marketing skyrockets in importance, social media companies have taken steps to make their platforms more attractive to this new wave of advertising. One way of making platforms attractive to both users and creators is to keep the platforms free of negativity. Negativity on social media has been a major reason for users to abandon sites and can make creators hesitant to use platforms where they do not feel supported. Additionally, 2020 saw many headlines regarding misinformation, hate-speech, and lack of moderation. As advertisers boycotted platforms and calls for action grew louder, social media platforms began to look for ways to promote themselves as socially conscious and safe. One of Pinterest’s answers to these calls is the “Creator Code.” Pinterest announced this code as an effort to help its platform be a positive and inspiring place.