The highest court in Texas just issued a ruling that will greatly impact Facebook both financially and in the reputation department. The problem lies with a teen sex trafficking case. Facebook was accused of failing to stop sex trafficking, which runs rampant, on its platform.
Though the social media company argued that it was protected by the infamous Section 230, the Texas Supreme Court disagrees:
Business Insider reports that the social media giant can now be held liable when a sex trafficker uses Facebook as a recruitment and trafficking tool:
As the Houston Chronicle reported, the ruling followed three local lawsuits involving teenage victims who had met their traffickers through Facebook’s messaging tools. The plaintiffs said Facebook was negligent and did not attempt to key sex trafficking off its technology.
Facebook has argued that it is shielded by the protections of Section 230 — part of an internet law that states online platforms are not liable for what people post on their services — and should therefore not be held responsible for what is posted on its platform.
But the Texas Supreme Court said Section 230 doesn’t mean Facebook can operate as a “lawless no-man’s-land,” as the Chronicle reported.
“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 said. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking.”
“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,” Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros says. “Facebook overwhelmingly is used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.” This is bad news for Facebook, which now can be made to pay — literally — when it allows this activity to go on.