A Texas appeals court has rejected Facebook’s efforts to halt multiple lawsuits accusing the social media juggernaut of knowingly permitting sex traffickers to recruit through its various platforms.
The lawsuits were brought by three Houston women recruited as 13-,14- and 16-year-olds through Facebook apps. The social media company appealed the rulings to the 14th Court of Appeal. The appeals court issued three parallel rulings all reflecting a 3-2 majority. In each case there was a dissenting ruling from Justice Tracy Christopher, who found Facebook should be cloaked in federal statutory immunity.
[Editor Charlie sez: This is kind of like reverse MIC Coalition. Time for the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman (call sign “Big Foot”) to scramble. Remember him? Wasn’t he an extra in Zoolander?]
An unusual constellation of powerful companies and industries are fighting to weaken Big Tech by limiting the reach of one of its most sacred laws. The law, known as Section 230, makes it nearly impossible to sue platforms like Facebook or Google for the words, images and videos posted by their users.
The biggest story of 2017? To my mind, there is no contest — the broad emergence of an awareness that the irresponsibility masquerading as Internet freedom represented a threat to global societies and to cherished aspects of our humanity, and that a course correction was badly needed.
While recognition of the fact that rewarding lack of accountability would likely incentivize anti-social and illegal conduct took longer than it should have, such an awareness came to fruition throughout 2017. Whether motivated by concerns about sex trafficking or the prevalence of other internet-enabled crimes, fake news, foreign government interference in elections, monopoly or monopsony power, or the perceived political or cultural biases of platforms, the question at the end of 2017 wasn’t whether the current legal framework for platform responsibility should be amended, but how.
It became clear that the twin pillars upholding the current lack of accountability in the internet ecosystem — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA, each of which was adopted at the dawn of the commercial internet, would need to be reexamined and a new framework established.