Texas Court Rules Facebook Can Be Held Liable for Sex Trafficking on Platform

In this image from video, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (House Energy and Commerce Committee via AP)
House Energy and Commerce Committee via AP

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Facebook is not a “lawless no-man’s-land,” and can be held liable for sex traffickers using its platform to prey on children.

Facebook could be held accountable following three lawsuits in Texas, which involved teenage sex traffic victims who met their pimps through the social media platform’s messaging functions, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle.

The social media company is now being sued for negligence and product liability, as prosecutors say Facebook failed to warn about or block sex trafficking from taking place on its platform.

The lawsuits also allege that Facebook benefited from the sexual exploitation of trafficking victims.

Facebook’s legal team, however, reportedly argued that the company is protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which states that online platforms are not responsible for third-party content posted on their site.

“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 wrote, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“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 court opinion said.

“Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking,” the opinion continued.

The justices added that Congress had recently amended Section 230 to add the possibility of civil liability for platforms that violate state and federal human-trafficking laws, reports the Houston Chronicle.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, one sex trafficking victim revealed how a predator used Facebook to lure her away from her family when she was just 15 years old. The woman is now suing Facebook, alleging that the social media giant fails to stop sex trafficking on its platform.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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