Texas Court Rules Facebook Can Be Held Liable for Failing to Prevent Teen Sex Trafficking

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc.,, speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Mark Zuckerberg

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Facebook can be held liable for failing to prevent teen sex trafficking and that they are not protected from such lawsuits by federal laws that shield Big Tech platforms from being sued over the content that users post on the platform.

This landmark ruling paves the way for Facebook and other tech companies to be held liable for failing to mitigate the use of their platforms for criminal activity, Business Insider notes, making it a very welcome ruling to those who have been warning that social media serves as a major means through which traffickers target and lure their victims.

The case stemmed from three local lawsuits which involved underage sex trafficking victims who were contacted by their traffickers through Facebook private messaging. The plaintiffs in these cases accused the tech giant of negligent failures to prevent their messenger tools from being used to the advantage of sex traffickers.

Facebook’s defense was that it was protected by Section 230, part of the Communications Decency Act which shields providers of interactive computer services of being sued for content posted by their users.

The Texas Supreme Court, however, determined that these protections do not justify Facebook being allowed to operate as a “lawless no-man’s-land,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

“Holding internet platforms accountable for the words or actions of their users is one thing, and the federal precedent uniformly dictates that section 230 does not allow it,” the majority ruling said. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking.”

As we have covered in several instances, social media platforms are increasingly employed by sex traffickers to recruit unwitting victims, particularly Facebook, as also detailed in a a recent report from the Human Trafficking Institute.

“The internet has become the dominant tool that traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them on a number of very common social networking websites,” the organization’s CEO, Victor Boutros, recently told CBS News. “Facebook overwhelmingly is used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”

Meanwhile, purveyors and consumers of child pornography seem to be cozily shielded by Facebook’s failure to mitigate criminal content on its platform. Earlier this year, we wrote about a report out of the U.K. which found that Facebook apps were used in over half of online child sex crimes, yet the tech outlet still planned on moving forward with a plan to encrypt all of its messaging apps.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the extent to which Facebook is willing to police users’ activity when it comes to politics or pandemics, so it is all the more shameful that their platform is being so frequently used by some of the most unthinkably evil criminals there are.

Let’s pray we see far more accountability from these companies from here on out—and an end to the sick and twisted exploitation of American women and girls.

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