A survivor of human trafficking from Texas has sued Facebook, alleging that the social media platform gave traffickers an unrestricted way to “stalk, exploit, recruit, groom…and extort children into the sex trade.” The woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” also names Backpage.com and the owners of two Houston hotels in the lawsuit. She is seeking $1 million in damages
According to the lawsuit, Facebook should be held liable for the conduct of sex traffickers because the social media site has become 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.”
Annie McAdams, an attorney for the woman who filed the suit, said her client was befriended by another Facebook user who gained her trust and promised her a job as a model. But, McAdams said, the other person forced her into sex trafficking within hours of meeting her. She was raped and beaten by people who had paid the trafficker, the attorney said.
McAdams alleged Facebook has not done enough to ensure that users aren’t able to hide their identities from unsuspecting minors who may be targets of traffickers or to warn minors of the dangers posed by traffickers and how they can operate online.
However, some observers believe that her case will be difficult to prove. Responding to the suit, a Facebook spokeswomen said that 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,” she added.