This woman’s death could make the Supreme Court hold tech giants liable for harm

Nohemi Gonzalez had been spending time with her friends at La Belle Equipe, a Paris cafe, when two gunmen opened fire on the restaurant’s terrace and fatally shot her, along with several others, in the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks that engulfed the French capital.

Out of the 130 people that perished in shootings and explosions on Nov. 13, 2015, Gonzalez — a senior at California State University, Long Beach — was the only U.S. citizen to die in the rampage.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Now, the 23-year-old’s parents are trying to honor her memory by taking a case to the U.S. Supreme Court that could permanently change the internet.

With the help of Israeli non-profit Shurat HaDin, a law firm with experience suing Twitter, Facebook and Google for providing material to support Hamas and other terrorist organizations, their 2018 annual report states.

Gonzalez’s family filed a lawsuit against Google arguing that YouTube violated the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, a 2020 law, by allowing ISIS to post hundreds of radicalizing videos on its platform.

The case hinges on whether internet companies can be held civilly liable for user-generated content their algorithms recommend to users, which could allow members of the public to file lawsuits against them for violating federal law.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides of Gonzalez v. Google and justices asked if the media giant is already protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that aims to shield online companies from being liable for content uploaded to their platforms.

If Gonzalez’s family were to win the case could create a “world of lawsuits,” Justice Elena Kagan said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh echoed her remarks. “Lawsuits will be nonstop,” he said.

Emma Llanso, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project, agreed with the judges.

“It’s going to create an enormous amount of confusion, especially for small online services, that could take years to sort in litigation in lower courts,” she said in a live forum analyzing the case.

Following Gonzalez’s death, the woman’s mother, Beatrice Gonzalez, described her daughter as a “wonderful, wonderful person with a big heart,” in a TV interview with Inside Edition.

“She was my baby,” she said.

Gonzalez had been living in El Monte, a city east of Los Angeles, and went to Paris on an exchange program at the Strate School of Design in Sèvres, according to a news release. She was known for being a dedicated student and had been working toward a major in industrial design.

“I design to make experiences that are memorable, bring out emotion and have an element of surprise by merging functionality and beauty,” her California university quoted her once saying in a news release.

David Teubner, one of Gonzalez’s professors, said she was creative, funny, crazy, warm and wonderful.

“She was so full of promise and well on her way to a successful career and a wonderful life,” he said in a written statement published by the university. “I am having trouble processing the odds that she would be, along with our other students, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Days after Gonzalez died, more that 2,000 people attended a vigil at the university. Her boyfriend of four years, Tim Mraz, spoke at the event. He told attendees that his girlfriend had a Pocahontas tattoo on her left arm and often referred to him as her “John Smith.”

“She’ll always be with us,” he said. “She was my little firecracker.”

The university established two funds in her honor: One to support international travel and study-abroad opportunities for students; the other to remodel and rename a part of the college’s Design Department after Gonzalez.

The former raised over $100,000.

“Although Nohemi’s journey in design was tragically cut short, her ideals and her spirit will be kept alive and celebrated through this initiative,” a statement about the design project read. “The funds will allow other students to carry forward these ideals for years to come.”

The Reckon Report.
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