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(Reuters) – The families of three men killed at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub have sued Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc in federal court, accusing the companies of providing “material support” to the self-radicalized gunman.

The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group before police fatally shot him after the June attack, officials said.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday in Detroit federal court by the families of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes and Juan Ramon Guerrero, who were killed during the massacre.

Similar lawsuits in the past have faced an uphill fight because of strong protections in U.S. federal law for the technology industry.

The three families claim Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Facebook “provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts they use to spread extremist propaganda, raise funds and attract new recruits.”

The suit alleges the “material support has been instrumental to the rise of ISIS and has enabled it to carry out or cause to be carried out, numerous terrorist attacks.”

Facebook said on Tuesday there is no place on its service for groups that engage in or support terrorism, and that it takes swift action to remove that content when it is reported.

“We are committed to providing a service where people feel safe when using Facebook,” it said in a statement. “We sympathize with the victims and their families.”

Twitter declined to comment. In August, the company said it had suspended 360,000 accounts since mid-2015 for violating policies related to promotion of terrorism.

Representatives of Google could not immediately be reached.

The three companies plus Microsoft Corp said this month they would coordinate more to remove extremist content, sharing digital “fingerprints” with each other.

Technology companies are protected from many lawsuits under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which says website operators are not liable for content posted by others.

Monday’s lawsuit claims that the companies create unique content by combining ISIS postings with advertisements to target the viewer. It also says they share revenue with ISIS for its content and profit from ISIS postings through advertising revenue.

The families in the case in Michigan, where one of the victims is from, are seeking damages and for the court to rule that the sites have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act in the United States.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and David Ingram in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrew Hay)

IMAGE: A person rubs an “#Orlando United” sticker on the sign pole outside Pulse nightclub following the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.