Many conservatives have taken issue with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the broad immunity against liability it grants to social media platforms, which appears to have been used and abused as a shield to avoid any accountability whatsoever.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is one such conservative, and he just reiterated his belief that the nation’s high court will eventually have to address the issue and likely narrow the scope of that conferred immunity, Breitbart reported.
Thomas shared his thoughts on the matter in a statement that otherwise concurred with the court’s decision to not take up — at least not yet — a lawsuit filed against Facebook by a young sex-trafficking victim in Texas who alleged that the platform facilitated her abuser.
Sex trafficking allegedly facilitated by Facebook
According to Law & Crime, the case is known as Jane Doe v. Facebook and it involves an adult male predator who used the platform to successfully lure a then-15-year-old girl to meet her, after which he repeatedly beat and raped her and trafficked her for sex with others.
The victim eventually escaped the egregious sexual captivity and eventually sued Facebook for having allegedly violated an anti-sex-trafficking statute in Texas as well as other alleged common law violations in the state.
That suit ultimately reached the Texas Supreme Court, where it was decided that the sex trafficking claim could proceed but the common law claims were to be dismissed due to the liability immunity protection conferred to the platform by the Section 230 law.
Facebook should be held liable “for its own ‘acts and omissions'”
SCOTUSblog reported Monday that the Supreme Court issued an order following its most recent private conference listing off all of the cases it had declined to take up or otherwise ruled upon in summary fashion, and among those cases was that of Jane Doe v. Facebook.
Justice Thomas used the opportunity to issue a statement of his own regarding that case in which he noted that the Texas Supreme Court had appeared to express some skepticism about the broad scope of Section 230 but nevertheless acknowledged the immunity it granted to Facebook against liability for the alleged crimes perpetrated on the platform by the adult sexual predator.
“Here, the Texas Supreme Court afforded publisher immunity even though Facebook allegedly ‘knows its system facilitates human traffickers in identifying and cultivating victims,’ but has nonetheless ‘failed to take any reasonable steps to mitigate the use of Facebook by human traffickers’ because doing so would cost the company users — and the advertising revenue those users generate,” Thomas wrote.
“It is hard to see why the protection [Section 230] grants publishers against being held strictly liable for third parties’ content should protect Facebook from liability for its own ‘acts and omissions,'” he continued.
Wait for Congress to act or go ahead and intervene?
“Assuming Congress does not step in to clarify [Section 230]’s scope, we should do so in an appropriate case. Unfortunately, this is not such a case,” Thomas wrote, noting that the Doe case was not yet “final” since the sex trafficking claim was still proceeding in the lower courts.
As such, the justice concurred with the decision to not take up the case at this time but concluded, “We should, however, address the proper scope of immunity under [Section 230] in an appropriate case.”