Social media giant Facebook has been sued by a Texas woman for allegedly facilitating sex trafficking on its platform. The woman claims that she was friended by another Facebook user, with whom she had common friends, at the age of 16 and he later beat, raped and forced her into sex trafficking. The woman, identified as Jane Doe, claims that the person also posted photos of her on a now defunct website.
The lawsuit names Backpage.com and two hotel owners as defendants in the case. The complaint says that Facebook has been used continually to facilitate human trafficking. Facebook “has continually been used to facilitate human trafficking by allowing sex traffickers an unrestricted platform to stalk, exploit, recruit, groom, recruit and extort children into the sex trade. Facebook is now the first point of contact between sex traffickers and these children… Facebook not only provides an unrestricted platform for these sex traffickers to target children, but it also cloaks the traffickers with credibility.”
The complaint accuses Facebook of negligence, gross negligence, and of being in violation with a 2009 Texas anti-trafficking law. According to Reuters, the lawsuit claims that the trafficker uses a false identity on the platform and Gizmodo further reports, the lawsuit claims that Facebook failed to warn its users that traffickers operate on its platform.
The lawsuit accuses Backpage.com of assisting human traffickers in their attempts to exploit minors and other victims. The two hotel owners in the lawsuit are said to have “turned a blind eye” to the trafficking that occurred at their locations. Earlier this year, the federal government decided to shutdown Backpage.com and the company later pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges.
“It was not just because a pimp did something that Jane Doe was trafficked,” Doe’s attorney Annie McAdams told the Associated Press. “That pimp is not able to traffic Jane Doe unless Facebook allowed him access to her.”
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In the lawsuit, the Jane Doe is seeking at least $1 million in damages. “Human trafficking is abhorrent and is not allowed on Facebook. We use technology to thwart this kind of abuse and we encourage people to use the reporting links found across our site so that our team of experts can review the content swiftly,” Facebook said in a statement to Engadget.