Meta, Facebook can not be held liable radicalization of Dylann Roof, judge rules

Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 11:06 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 12:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A district court judge has ruled that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, can not be held liable for radicalizing Dylann Roof culminating in the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2022 by the daughter and wife of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine Black parishioners killed in the racially motivated attack during a Bible study, argued Roof was radicalized by “repetitious exposure to online white supremacist propaganda.”

Also named were Russian defendants who court documents argue used Meta’s algorithms to deliver racial narratives and misinformation in an attempt to create civil unrest.

In Judge Richard Gergel’s ruling on Sept. 14, he points to the Communications Decency Act and the “quarter century of case law” addressing claims against it.

In dismissing the claims, Gergel said “The balancing of the broad societal benefits of a robust internet against the social harm associated with bad actors utilizing these services is quintessentially the function of Congress, not the courts.”

A fourth claim under the Ku Klux Klan Act was also dismissed.

A claim under the act must allege: (1) a conspiracy of two or more persons (2) who are motivated by a specific class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus to (3) deprive plaintiff of the equal enjoyment of rights secured by the law to all, (4) and results in injury to the plaintiff as (5) a consequence of an overt act committed by the defendants in connection with the conspiracy.

Gergel said the original suit did not provide details of a conspiracy that could be tried under the act.

“The Complaint is bereft of any details of such an alleged conspiracy, including which specific individuals conspired, how they communicated, the details of any meetings, and the substance, purpose, or scope of the alleged conspiracy,” court documents state.

Gergel’s motion only dismissed Meta from the lawsuit. The named Russian defendants are not affected by the order.