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Facebook and Social Media Companies Held Liable if Used in Criminal Activity

Alec G., Tech Times

(Photo : Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels)

Facebook and other social media platforms will be now held liable for crimes such as human trafficking and people who prey on the underaged, according to a court ruling.

What Caused the Ruling?

 In a report by the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Supreme Court said that there were three local underaged female victims that were contacted by traffickers through Facebook’s Messenger app.

The plaintiffs have said that Facebook did not attempt to improve security regarding human trafficking in its social media platform.

Facebook, on the other hand, said that it is protected by Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act , which is part of the internet law that stated that online platforms are not held liable for what users post on their services.

Hence, they shouldn’t be held liable for what is going on within the said social media platform.

The Texas Supreme Court, however, countered that Section 230 doesn’t mean that Facebook is considered a “lawless no-man’s-land,” as per the Houston Chronicle.

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Section 230 Discussions

Section 230 is now the focus of on-going talks surrounding the moderation of how internet platforms should act. Several people are calling for tech companies to be seen as publishers, like news outlets are being held accountable for what they post online.

The worry about most people is that online recruitment has been on the rise for illegal activities over the years, and Facebook has the most cases from last year, coming from a report by the Human Trafficking Institute. 

Just recently, CEO Victor Boutros told CBS News: “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 sites.”

Boutros also added that Facebook is used by most online traffickers to stage heists on victims, and have several active trafficking cases that are still very much on-going.

Instances of Trafficking in Facebook

An adult messaged an underaged woman who was 15 years old connected by a mutual friend on her Facebook account in 2012, saying that she confided in him, and in return she was complimented and told that she could have a modeling gig.

When they finally met in person, the adult posted photos of the underage woman in indecent services on Backpage.

Backpage is another online platform that’s used by many to promote human trafficking. The underage woman was then assaulted, and forced into doing things that are immoral.

Another instance would be from a 14 year old in 2017 where she was contacted by an adult in Instagram (another platform owned by Facebook) and baited her with “false promises of love and a better future.”

She was then assaulted several times and used Instagram to advertise her as a female consort who is looking for “dates.” The mother of the 14-year-old reported to Facebook as to what happened to her daughter but the company didn’t reply.

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This article is owned by Tech Times

Written by Alec G

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