The Texas Supreme Court handed down a recent ruling that would make Facebook liable for sex trafficking that is coordinated on their social media network. This major ruling against the corporate tech giant comes after a suit from teenage victims who claim that they were targeted through Facebook.
Facebook’s legal council argued that the multi-billion-dollar company is protected from liability due to the Communications Decency Act Section 230, which protects websites from being held liable for illegal content posted on their site from users. Exceptions to the rule include copyright violations, violations of federal criminal law and sex work-related material.
The Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling on Friday that stops the social media platform from continuing to be a “lawless no-man’s-land” and decided that it should be vulnerable to suit for sex trafficking.
The majority wrote in their decision that Section 230 does not “create a lawless no-man’s-land” that immunizes websites from suit which are “knowingly or intentionally participat[ing] in the evil of… human trafficking.”
The decision added that “internet platforms” need to be held accountable for “misdeeds,” particularly when that crime is human trafficking.
The court ruling came at the heels of three Texas-based lawsuits against Facebook, all of which claimed that the platform enables sex traffickers to target minors. The Houston victims were aged 13, 14, and 16 at the time that they were preyed upon by sex traffickers through Facebook. The lawsuit alleges that the California-based tech giant is guilty of negligence in failing to protect minors from such threats on their website.
Predators reportedly use a tactic where they entice their victims with lies about “love and a better future,” and often use made up modeling jobs that don’t exist.
Annie McAdams, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs recalls one of the cases which involved a 14-year-old who was recruited, groomed, and then sold in 2018 by a man that she met through Instagram, one of Facebook’s other websites, where she was beaten and “sold… for commercial sex for three weeks.” McAdams explains that the victim has been in therapy ever since.
McAdams stated after the ruling that while there’s still a great deal of work to be done to bring justice to the victims, she is glad that the Texas Supreme Court allowed them to “have their day in court against Facebook.”
Author: Jackie Wise