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Supreme Court of Texas Holds Facebook Accountable for Child Sex Trafficking Recruitment

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

The Supreme Court of Texas ruled on Friday that if human traffickers use Facebook to target children, the social network can be held responsible, stating that the platform is not a “lawless no-man’s-land.”

“For the reasons explained below, we deny mandamus relief in part and grant it in part. The plaintiffs’ statutory human-trafficking claims may proceed, but their common-law claims for negligence, gross negligence, negligent undertaking, and products liability must be dismissed,” the court ruling reads.

However, the court said that it “does 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 decision came in the wake of three lawsuits filed in Houston involving juvenile trafficking victims who met their violent pimps on Facebook. 

They sued the platform for negligence and product responsibility, saying that the California-based social media giant failed to prevent sex trafficking on its internet platforms.

In addition, the lawsuits said that Facebook actually profited from the sexual exploitation of human trafficking victims.

Facebook’s legal team has argued that it is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that Internet platforms are not accountable for third-party content uploaded on their sites.

“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 found, according to the Chronicle. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking.”

US Congress recently amended Section 230 to incorporate the possibility of civil responsibility for websites that violate state and federal human trafficking statutes.

As a result, US states may now be able to protect residents from internet businesses that engage in human trafficking either through action or inaction, no matter if they are unaware of it or do it deliberately.

Earlier this month, an investigation conducted by the non-profit Tech Transparency Project revealed that several Facebook profiles and groups publicly market illegal border crossings between the US and Mexico, including pricing, routes, discount options, and even videos and delighted clients’ testimonials purporting to portray successful voyages. The organization suggested back then that the platform became a “one-stop shop” for human traffickers and Mexican drug cartels.

During the Trump administration, the GOP intensified criticism of Big Tech and particularly Section 230, which they believe unjustly allows Democrats to exercise political domination on social media platforms, contributing to what has been nicknamed “cancel culture.” 

Trump has recently called on other nations to follow Nigeria’s example and ban Facebook and Twitter altogether for “not allowing free and open speech.”

Following the US Capitol siege on January 6, congressional Democrats have demonstrated a bipartisan interest in tightening regulation of social media corporations and overhauling Section 230.

Section 230 reform might mean that Big Tech corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and Google will be held to stricter standards when it comes to what is going on on their platforms.

Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

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