In 2012, a then-15-year-old Jane Doe was “friended” on Facebook by a user who appeared to know several of her friends in real life. The man messaged her through Facebook, and offered to console her after an argument with her mother. But that user’s online identity turned out to be false, and after picking up Jane Doe in his car, he beat her, raped her, and posted illicit photos taken during the incident to Backpage.com.
The woman is now suing Facebook, claiming the site failed to properly vet the assailant’s identity or adequately warn her that sex traffickers were operating on the social media network.
An Unrestricted Platform
The lawsuit, which also names Backpage.com as a defendant, claims 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.” The woman is accusing the social network of negligence, gross negligence, and violating a 2009 Texas anti-trafficking law, and is seeking $1 million in damages.
“Facebook is now the first point of contact between sex traffickers and these children,” the lawsuit alleges. “Facebook not only provides an unrestricted platform for these sex traffickers to target children, but it also cloaks the traffickers with credibility.”
Facebook, for its part, claims it works to prevent predators from using its platform to find victims. “Human trafficking is abhorrent and is not allowed on Facebook,” the company asserted in a statement. “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 also works closely with anti-trafficking organization and other technology companies, and we report all apparent instances of child sexual exploitation to NCMEC.”
The social media network did not address the woman’s claims specifically, so it may be for the court to decide criminal and civil liability.