The Texas Supreme Court ruled on June 25 (Friday) that the social media giant Facebook.Inc can be held liable if the sex traffickers use the platform to prey on teenagers. The court was hearing the case filed by three women victims claiming that they were pushed into prostitution as teenagers by the sexual predators who used Facebook to ensnare them.
Facebook not adapting measures to block such sexual predators for profits
The plaintiffs claimed that Facebook was negligent and has not adapted effective measures to block such sex traffickers because of the monetary benefits it gets from advertising to more than 2 billion users. In the lawsuit, the women claimed that Facebook won’t use their advertising space for public service announcements regarding the dangers of sex trafficking.
Justice James Blacklock of the Texas Supreme Court said in its ruling that the victims can sue Facebook under a state law that allows legal action against those who benefit from sex trafficking. However, he added that as per the federal law, the victims cannot claim that Facebook has failed to warn children and take action to stop sex trafficking on its website.
Meanwhile, Facebook in its defence told the SC that it is protected under Section 230, an internet law that says online platforms are not responsible for third party content posted on the service’s site.
Rejecting the argument the court ruled: “The statutory claim for knowingly or intentionally benefiting from participation in a human-trafficking venture is not barred by Section 230”.
Justice James Blacklock of the Texas Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings and suggested that the Section 230 provisions written in 1996, maybe outdated and needs to be reworked upon.
“Perhaps advances in technology now allow online platforms to more easily police their users’ posts,” Blacklock said. “On the other hand, perhaps subjecting online platforms to greater liability for their users’ injurious activity would reduce freedom of speech on the internet by encouraging platforms to censor ‘dangerous’ content to avoid lawsuits.”
Social media giant Twitter sued by a sex trafficking victim
It is pertinent to note here that in January this year, another social media giant, Twitter was marred by a similar controversy, after it allegedly refused to take down widely shared pornographic images and videos of a child sex trafficking victim. Twitter has claimed that the images and videos of the child sex trafficking victim do not violate its company policies.
The federal lawsuit, filed on January 20th, 2021, by the victim and his mother in the Northern District of California, alleged that Twitter made money by circulating porn clips, which showed a 13-year-old engaged in sex acts, basically child pornography.
These sort of disturbing lawsuits exposes how these social media giants knowingly hosts sexual predators on their platforms and allows illegal child porn networks to flourish, using the platforms to exchange child porn material and profits.