Texas Supreme Court Rules Facebook Can Be Held Liable For Sex Trafficking

Written by on June 27, 2021

Texas’ highest court docket has dominated that Fb may be held responsible for intercourse trafficking carried out on its social media platforms, after a number of victims accused the corporate of knowingly benefiting from its on-line facilitation.

Friday’s ruling by the state’s Supreme Courtroom permits three civil lawsuits by trafficking victims to proceed in opposition to the social media large, after the court docket decided that present legal guidelines don’t allow Fb, or every other web site, to behave as a “lawless no-man’s-land,” the Houston Chronicle first reported.

The victims have accused Fb of violating a state anti-trafficking legislation handed in 2009 ― Chapter 98 of the Texas Civil Follow and Cures Code ― that makes a defendant who traffics an individual, or who deliberately or knowingly advantages from the act, liable to the sufferer.

The ruling by Texas' Supreme Court means that three civil lawsuits by trafficking victims against the social media giant will

The ruling by Texas’ Supreme Courtroom implies that three civil lawsuits by trafficking victims in opposition to the social media large can be allowed to proceed.

Fb in February requested that the court docket dismiss the lawsuits, which had been filed by three ladies who mentioned that as youngsters they had been pulled into the intercourse commerce by pimps utilizing the corporate’s social media platforms.

In one of many circumstances reported by the Chronicle, the sufferer mentioned she was 14 years outdated when she was contacted by a person on Instagram, which is owned by Fb. She mentioned the person ended up raping her and promoting her as a prostitute on Instagram. After the lady was rescued from the operation, her Instagram profile continued for use to lure in different minors. The sufferer’s mom mentioned she reported what occurred to Fb however the firm by no means responded.

The plaintiffs accuse Fb of “making a breeding floor for intercourse traffickers to stalk and entrap survivors.” As an alternative of implementing safeguards that may require verification of customers’ identities and being extra selective with its promoting, the corporate is accused of selecting to extend its revenue margins.

Fb argued that Part 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, handed in 1996, protects on-line service suppliers from legal responsibility for content material printed by its customers, in addition to legal responsibility for regulating it.

Nevertheless, the Texas justices dismissed that blanket protection on Friday, arguing that Fb performed a task in facilitating the illicit habits. It additionally famous that in 2018, Congress amended Part 230 in order that civil legal responsibility might be imposed on web sites that violate state and federal human trafficking legal guidelines.

“We don’t perceive Part 230 to ‘create a lawless no-man’s-land on the Web’ by which states are powerless to impose legal responsibility on web sites that knowingly or deliberately take part within the evil of on-line human trafficking,” the justices mentioned of their majority opinion. “Holding web platforms accountable for the phrases or actions of their customers is one factor, and the federal precedent uniformly dictates that Part 230 doesn’t permit it. Holding web platforms accountable for their very own misdeeds is sort of one other factor. That is significantly the case for human trafficking.”

Fb mentioned it’s contemplating its subsequent steps.

“Intercourse trafficking is abhorrent and never allowed on Fb,” a spokesperson advised HuffPost in a press release. “We are going to proceed our battle in opposition to the unfold of this content material and the predators who have interaction in it.”

A lawyer for one of many victims suing Fb mentioned their work doesn’t cease right here.

“Our purchasers have fought for over two years for the possibility to convey their case,” lawyer Annie McAdams mentioned in a press release. “Whereas we’ve an extended highway forward, we’re grateful that the Texas Supreme Courtroom will permit these brave trafficking survivors to have their day in court docket in opposition to Fb. With the assistance of Chapter 98 safety, we imagine trafficking survivors in Texas can expose and maintain accountable companies equivalent to Fb that profit from these crimes of exploitation.”

Since 2013, the web has been the commonest location for human trafficking recruitment, in line with a 2020 report by the Human Trafficking Institute.

Greater than half of all on-line sufferer recruitments in intercourse trafficking circumstances that occurred in 2020 befell on Fb, “making it by far probably the most steadily referenced web site or app in public sources linked with these prosecutions, which was additionally true in 2019,” the report discovered.

After Fb, Instagram and Snapchat had been the 2 most steadily cited social media platforms for recruiting little one victims.

Need assistance? Go to RAINN’s Nationwide Sexual Assault On-line Hotline or the Nationwide Sexual Violence Useful resource Middle’s web site.

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