The Supreme Court in Texas has ruled that Facebook may be held accountable for sex offenders who use the social media platform to prey on minors in their human trafficking schemes. The decision follows three Houston lawsuits in which teenagers who fell victim to human trafficking claim they were contacted by their abusers through Facebook's messaging service. The prosecutors argued that Facebook should have done more to block sex traffickers from using the site, which has 7.5 million users under the age of 13.
"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 Texas Supreme Court decided, as reported by The Epoch Times.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others are protected by Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity for these companies from third-party content or any content posted by its users, thereby protecting them from lawsuits that may arise from problematic posts from their millions of users. This same liability clause is often what these platforms like Facebook use to censor viewpoints they do not share, specifically conservative ones.
"Holding internet platforms accountable for words or actions of their users is one thing, and the federal precedent uniformly dictates that section 230 does not allow it," the Texas Supreme Court said in its ruling on June 25. "Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking."
"Sex trafficking is abhorrent and not allowed on Facebook," the social media giant's spokesperson told Fox News, assuring that they were already on the case and "considering next steps" in the process. The spokesperson added, "We will continue our fight against the spread of this content and the predators who engage in it."
According to Breitbart, Facebook is facing a lawsuit from a sex trafficking victim who alleged that her predator used Facebook to coax her into meeting with him when she was just 15 years old. The victim also alleges that Facebook has failed to prevent sex trafficking on the social media platform.
The Christian Post reported that the Texas Supreme Court's decision to allow lawsuits against Facebook is a groundbreaking ruling, as per Annie McAdams, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Houston cases. She said that this is the first case to defy Facebook's arguments under Section 230. McAdams felt hopeful that despite the "long road ahead," the Texas Supreme Court has allowed "courageous trafficking survivors" to fight back against Facebook.
The 2009 Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code's Chapter 98 is an anti-trafficking provision that allows legal action against organizations or individuals who benefit from sex trafficking. However, the plaintiffs could not pursue claims against this federal law, according to Justice James Blacklock of the Texas Supreme Court. Facebook appealed to the Texas Supreme Court after it failed to get rid of the complaints on the district level and 14th Court of Appeals in Texas. Plaintiffs are confident that they can finally hold Facebook accountable for the actions of sex traffickers who use the platform to prey on their victims.