Twitter accused of being complicit in sex trafficing in new lawsuit

In a federal lawsuit filed in January by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center (NCOSE), The Haba Law Firm and The Matiasic Law Firm accused Twitter of being complicit in sex trafficking by knowingly distributing and profiting on the sexual abuse of a minor.

Twitter is attempting to have the lawsuit dismissed under Section 230. One of the lawyers, Lisa Haba, says that Twitter can’t use 230 to shield itself in this case. The lawsuit was filed by John Doe. Doe claims that he was harmed by Twitter’s distribution of material depicting his sexual abuse and the refusal to remove the content when notified by the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s parents. In January 2020, Doe was 16 years old when he found out that sexually graphic videos of himself were circulating on Twitter. Students in his high school watched the video and Doe became a “victim of bullying” and became “suicidal” as a result.

The videos were made by the plaintiff when he was just 13 years old and was sexually extorted by abusers pretending to be a younger teenager. Doe was manipulated into sending nude photos and the abusers then threatened to show his parents, school leaders, and pastor. The photos were used for blackmail. John Doe and his mother reached out to Twitter through its reporting system to have the video taken down. After verifying the child’s age, Twitter refused to take down the video. The video had been viewed 167,000 times and shared 2,000 times before a federal agent finally ordered Twitter to take down the video.

The lawsuit claims that because of Twitter’s refusal to remove the video they enabled sexual abuse and profited off it. According to Haba, Twitter responded to Doe and his mother’s request by saying the video did not violate their guidelines. Haba also stated that Twitter profited off the video. According to the law firm’s research, Twitter profits primarily in two ways. One is advertising and the other is data licensing when data comes from people using the platform. Twitter claims that because of Section 230 they can’t be held liable. Under 230 tech companies like Twitter can not be held liable for what is posted on their platforms because they are not considered publishers.




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