The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Facebook can be held liable if sex traffickers use the platform to prey on children.
The state court ruled that Facebook is not a “lawless no-man’s-land” and could be held accountable following three Texas-based lawsuits that involved teenage sex traffic victims, the Houston Chronicle first reported.
EXPERTS WARN BIG TECH ANTITRUST BILLS COULD ‘SHACKLE INNOVATION AND HURT CONSUMERS’
The victims were reportedly preyed on through the social media platform’s messaging system – prompting prosecutors to claim the site was negligent in not better blocking sex trafficking opportunities.
Facebook contended that it is protected under Section 230 – an internet law that says online platforms are not responsible for third–party content posted on the service’s site.
“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.”
Facebook told Fox Business they are considering “next steps” following the court’s decision.
“We’re reviewing the decision and considering potential next steps. Sex trafficking is abhorrent and not allowed on Facebook,” a spokesman said. “We will continue our fight against the spread of this content and the predators who engage in it.”
During the Trump administration, the GOP started taking aim at Section 230, which it believes unfairly permits political dominance by Democrats on social media platforms, contributing to what has been dubbed “cancel culture.”
But Democrats on the Hill have recently shown a bipartisan interest to more heavily regulate social media companies and overhaul Section 230, following the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January.
Reforming Section 230 could mean that large companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are held to more stringent standards regarding what is published on their platforms.