The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that Facebook can be held liable for the sex trafficking that takes place on its platform, dealing a serious blow to the social media giant who has for years been accused of allowing pedophiles and sex traffickers to operate online with impunity. The ruling comes after a group of teen sex trafficking victims from Houston, lured from the site by abusive pimps, brought on the suit.
Under the ruling, the Facebook sex trafficking victims will be allowed to move forward with lawsuits against the tech giant, who the court says violated the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, opening themselves up to the suits when they neglected to even make an effort to protect underage users from pedophiles.
As has been the case for years, Facebook attempted to skirt responsibility for the sex trafficking on its platform by hiding behind the highly controversial protections issued to social media giants under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
In their majority opinion on the ruling, the Texas Supreme Court highlighted Section 230 and slapped down claims of no liability from Facebook lawyers, stating that Section 230 doesn’t make Facebook a “lawless no-man’s-land for sex trafficking.”
“We do not understand Section 230 to create a lawless no-man’s-land on the internet in which states are powerless to impose liability on websites that knowingly or intentionally participate in the evil of online human trafficking,” the majority opinion reads.
“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,” it opinion continues. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking.”
According to reports from the Houston Chronicle, the plaintiffs in the Facebook sex trafficking lawsuits were all under the age of 18 at the time they were lured into living hell, with Facebook serving as “a point of first contact between sex traffickers and these children.”
One of the victims’ mothers reportedly reached out to Facebook after her 14-year-old daughter had been repeatedly trafficked and raped, with traffickers using Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram to advertise the girl online. According to the victim, her mother’s calls went completely unanswered.
Two other victims who took part in the suit say they had been lured off of Facebook by promises of modeling contracts only to have the photos of themselves posted to the former Back Page website, which itself was shutdown due to it being a hotbed for sex trafficking. Both victims were subsequently raped.
Despite allowing child sex traffickers to operate on Facebook, seemingly with impunity, the social network has been at the forefront of stifling conservative speech, including from the then-sitting President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, earlier this year. Though perverse accounts remain up across the site, it was announced that President Trump will be kicked off the platform for at least two years. Facebook will then “reassess” the former President’s presence on the website, with the quickest date for reinstatement conveniently following the 2022 mid term elections.