A sex trafficking victim has filed a lawsuit against Twitter in a U.S. district court in California, alleging that the social media giant knowingly received and distributed child pornography from which it could benefit.
According to the court filing, John Doe said he was solicited and recruited for sex trafficking as a minor. After his escape, material depicting his abuse was disseminated on Twitter.
“When Twitter was first alerted to this fact and John Doe’s age, Twitter refused to remove the illegal material and instead continued to promote and profit from the sexual abuse of this child,” the plaintiffs allege.
John Doe and his parent contacted Twitter multiple times about the content, but Twitter allegedly didn’t suspend the accounts distributing those materials until a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent intervened.
Plaintiffs accused Twitter of benefiting from a sex trafficking venture in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000, numerous criminal codes against the sexual exploitation and other abuse of children, and negligence, among other claims.
On Jan. 8, Twitter permanently removed former President Donald Trump’s account two days after a mob breached Congress while he was giving a speech to a large crowd of supporters more than a 30-minute walk away, a timeline by The Epoch Times shows. Twitter suspended his account saying that his recent posts were “in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy.”
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter and several Twitter accounts in 2019 for “negligence, defamation per se, insulting words, and civil conspiracy.” But a judge ruled that Twitter was immune because it is not a content provider and that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives the private company immunity from both defamation and negligence claims.
Unbalanced policing of user content has raised concerns about the lack of checks and balances on decisions made by Big Tech companies on what content they remove. Discussions over limiting or eliminating liability protections under Section 230 for tech companies that have engaged in censorship or political conduct have been heavily discussed in the past year, spearheaded by Trump.
“Twitter is not a passive, inactive, intermediary in the distribution of this harmful material; rather, Twitter has adopted an active role in the dissemination and knowing promotion and distribution of this harmful material,” the John Doe complaint alleged. “Twitter’s own policies, practices, business model, and technology architecture encourage and profit from the distribution of sexual exploitation material.”
“With over 330 million users, Twitter is one of the largest social media companies in the world. It is also one of the most prolific distributors of material depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” it further alleged.
The complaint said it “seeks to shine a light on how Twitter has enabled and profited from CSAM [child sexual abuse material] on its platform, choosing profits over people, money over the safety of children, and wealth at the expense of human freedom and human dignity.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.