Houston woman sues Facebook, says website aided in her being sex trafficked as a child
Facebook is being sued by a Houston woman who says the social media giant’s “morally bankrupt corporate culture” left her prey to a predatory pimp who drew her into sex trafficking as a child.
The civil lawsuit filed Monday in Harris County court accused Facebook of providing “an unrestricted platform” that allows sex traffickers to “stalk, exploit, recruit, groom and extort children into the sex trade.”
“For over a decade Facebook has been providing predators unrestricted platform to prey on victims,” said attorney Annie McAdams, whose firm has filed a number of suits seeking to hold businesses accountable for their roles in promoting, facilitating or silently permitting sex traffickers to recruit victims. “Profiting from connecting people requires you to protect those with whom you connect.”
She said the legal action is one of several she plans to file in the coming weeks around the U.S., but the Houston-based firm wanted the first case to be filed locally because this city has been profoundly impacted by human trafficking.
The suit, seeking monetary damages in excess of $10,000, also targets four employees and the company Backpage, an online advertising site that was shuttered after an FBI raid on allegations it promoted prostitution, and a hotel in southwest Houston, where sexual encounters with customers allegedly occurred.
The former trafficking victim, using the pseudonym Jane Doe, says a “friend” of a Facebook friend reached out to her in 2012 when she was 16, complimenting her looks in posted images and offering to help her launch a modeling career. When the girl mentioned on Facebook she’d had a conflict with her mother, the recruiter suggested she could make enough money as a model to pay for her own apartment. He offered to pick her up and console her, according to the complaint.
Jane Doe says in court documents that the trafficker photographed her and posted the images online, and she was then raped, beaten and forced into sex trafficking.
The recruiter compelled the girl to perform sex acts for customers at America’s Inn in the 8200 block of Southwest Freeway, according to court documents.
The lawsuit cites a 2014 statistic from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which attributed the 836 percent increase in suspected child sex trafficking between 2010 and 2014 to “increased use of the internet to sell children for sex.”
Facebook and a lawyer who has represented Backpage in previous sex trafficking lawsuits did not respond to a request for comment.