HOUSTON, Oct. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A Texas human trafficking survivor has sued Facebook, Inc., alleging the social media giant provides "an unrestricted platform to stalk, exploit, recruit, groom, and extort children into the sex trade," according to her lawyers at Annie McAdams PC, The Gallagher Law Firm, and Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP.
The case, filed in state district court in Harris County, alleges that Facebook, Inc. benefited from sexual exploitation of the trafficking survivor – "Jane Doe" – in violation of Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 98, an anti-trafficking law passed in 2009, and other state laws.
The lawsuit alleges that Jane Doe was a Facebook user in 2012 while she was 16 years old. She was "friended" by another Facebook user with whom she had common friends. This Facebook "friend" messaged Jane Doe through Facebook, noting she was "pretty enough to be a model." The Facebook "friend" made false promises regarding financial security and "a better life" through modeling.
After Jane Doe had an argument with her mother, the lawsuit alleges, Jane Doe confided in the Facebook "friend," who then offered her a job as a model. Jane Doe was told she could make enough money modeling to pay the rent on her own apartment, the lawsuit alleges. The Facebook "friend" offered to pick her up and console her about her disagreement with her mother, the lawsuit alleges. Within hours of meeting the Facebook "friend," photos taken of Jane Doe were posted online and she was then raped, beaten, and forced into sex trafficking.
According to the petition, 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. Facebook is now 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."
The lawsuit accuses Facebook, Inc. of negligence, gross negligence, and violations of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 98.002. Other defendants in the lawsuit include Backpage.com, America's Inn, and Pearl Inc., which owns a Houston-based American's Inn location.
Jane Doe is represented by Annie McAdams of Annie McAdams PC, of Houston; Michael T. Gallagher of The Gallagher Law Firm, of Houston; and David E. Harris of Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP, of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Annie McAdams, of Annie McAdams PC, said, "This courageous survivor fought back to rebuild her life. With the help of Chapter 98 protection, we believe trafficking survivors in Texas can expose and hold accountable businesses such as Facebook, Inc. that benefit from these crimes of exploitation."
In April 2018 testimony before Congress, Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company had not "taken a broad enough view of Facebook's responsibility to the community and content." He added, "We [Facebook] need to make sure that people aren't using it to harm other people or to spread misinformation. Across the board we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure they're used for good."
David E. Harris, of Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP, said, "We believe Facebook has an obligation to safeguard and to warn its users, both through its online platform and otherwise, of the dangers of human traffickers using Facebook as a tool to entrap and enslave children into sex trafficking."
The case is "Jane Doe v. Facebook, Inc., et al," Case 2018-69816 in the 334th State District Court of Harris County, Texas.
Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, [email protected], 281.703.6000.
SOURCE Annie McAdams PC