Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling regarding Facebook, noting that the social media giant does not constitute a “lawless no-man’s-land,” which means that the platform can face major liability over sex traffickers using the platform in order to prey upon minors.
This ruling emerged after three lawsuits were filed in the state of Texas, all of which involved teenaged sex trafficking victims. The victims made contact with their pimps through Facebook’s messaging functionality, per reports from the Houston Chronicle.
Consequently, Facebook now faces major lawsuits for both product liability and negligence, and prosecutors argue that Facebook has not only failed to block sex traffickers, but also failed to issue warnings regarding sex trafficking practices that take place across its platform.
In addition, the lawsuits state that Facebook has allegedly benefitted from the exploitation associated with victims of sex trafficking.
However, the legal team at Facebook insisted that the company is protected from this type of liability due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This section states that various online platforms cannot be held liable for third-party content that may appear on its sites.
Nonetheless, the majority in Texas Supreme Court stated that it does not perceive Section 230 as justification for the creation of “a lawless no-man’s-land on the Internet.” Moreover, Section 230 also does not prevent states from exerting their power against platforms that either “intentionally” or “knowingly” engage in the ongoing “evil of online human trafficking.”
The Court also made a distinction between “holding internet platforms accountable for words or actions” is distinct from holding them accountable for serving as a conduit for sex traffickers.
In addition, the justices also detailed recent amendments made by Congress to Section 230, which permitted the possibility of platforms facing civil liabilities for for situations that violate either federal or state human-trafficking laws.
During an interview with the famed 60 minutes show, one victim of sex trafficking detailed how a predator successfully harnessed the Facebook platform in order to lure her into the lurid world of sex trafficking when she was only 15 years old. Now, the sex trafficking victim is suing Facebook, claiming that the tech giant has not taken appropriate measures to stop sex trafficking on its platform.