Facebook and other social media companies have enjoyed virtually limitless liability protection, thanks to Section 230, since the dawn of social media platforms — even in extreme cases such as children being lured into dangerous sex trafficking situations through the platforms.
But according to the Daily Caller, the Texas Supreme Court just put a swift end to any rules prohibiting states and sex trafficking victims from pursuing legal action against social media platforms in those cases, with Justice James Blacklock ruling in favor of the victims.
Huge win for victims
While the Texas Supreme Court didn’t rule that Facebook was guilty in the case, the bombshell ruling made it clear to Facebook that residents of the state who are victims of sex trafficking as a result of using Facebook will have full legal standing to bring legal action against the company.
“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,” Blacklock wrote in his decision.
Victims of such crimes and those who advocate for them have long argued that social platforms like Facebook have been used as an “unrestricted platform” for criminals who perpetrate such horrific, unthinkable crimes.
Blacklock pointed out in his ruling the stark difference between holding users of social platforms responsible versus holding the actual social media companies responsible.
“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,” Blacklock wrote. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing.”
Shortly after the state Supreme Court ruling, Facebook issued a statement regarding its stance on sex trafficking and pledged to continue to fight against it.
“Sex trafficking is abhorrent and not allowed on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote to the Daily Caller. “We will continue our fight against the spread of this content and the predators who engage in it.”
Annie McAdams, an attorney representing one of the Texas-based sex trafficking victims, was generally pleased with the ruling against Facebook — a company that can’t seem to eliminate bad actors who use social platforms to lure young victims.
“While we have a long road ahead, we are grateful that the Texas Supreme Court will allow these courageous trafficking survivors to have their day in court against Facebook,” McAdams said.
It’s true that social media platforms still have plenty of liability armor, but it appears as if the Texas Supreme Court just exposed a chink in that armor, and, hopefully, additional states will follow Texas’ lead.