Social Media Accountability for Terrorist Propaganda

27 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2017 Last revised: 8 Nov 2017

See all articles by Alexander Tsesis

Alexander Tsesis

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: October 4, 2017


Terrorist organizations have found social media websites to be invaluable for disseminating ideology, recruiting terrorists, and planning operations. National and international leaders have repeatedly pointed out the dangers terrorists pose to ordinary people and state institu-tions. Litigants have therefore been unsuccessful in obtaining redress against internet compa-nies who host or disseminate third-party terrorist content the federal Communications De-cency Act’s Section 230 provides social networking websites with immunity against civil law suits. This Article demonstrates that Section 230 does not bar private parties from recovery if they can prove that a social media company received notice that a terrorist organization was using one of its webpages, posting videos, generating blog posts, uploading articles, or manipu-lating internet protocol address to obfuscate its identity; the company’s failure to remove the material; a terrorist’s subsequent viewing of or interacting with the material on the website or internet server; and that a party acted upon the propaganda to harm the plaintiff.

Irrespective of civil immunity, the First Amendment does not limit Congress’s authority to impose criminal liability on those content intermediaries who have been notified that their websites are hosting third-party foreign terrorist incitement, recruitment, or instruction. In-deed, neither the First Amendment nor the Communications Decency Act prevents this form of federal criminal prosecution. A social media company can be prosecuted for material sup-port of terrorism if it knowingly provided a platform to organizations or individuals who advo-cate the commission of terrorist acts. Mechanisms will need to be created that can enable ad-ministrators to take emergency measures, while simultaneously preserving the due process rights of internet intermediaries to challenge orders to immediately block, temporarily remove, or permanently destroy data.

Keywords: First Amendment, Legal Theory, Constitutional Law, Social Media Regulation, Section 230

Suggested Citation

Tsesis, Alexander, Social Media Accountability for Terrorist Propaganda (October 4, 2017). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 86, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Alexander Tsesis (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-915-7929 (Phone)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics