Sex trafficking survivor sues Facebook

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - It's an eyebrow-raising case originating in Houston. The lawsuit against Facebook follows a girl given the pseudonym Jane Doe whose attorney says was only 12 years old when she had her first contact with a man who kidnapped and exploited her.

Through a 61-page lawsuit, attorney Annie McAdams said she is fighting for the girls who are taken into human trafficking and share a painful story of survival.

This lawsuit follows Jane Doe No. 19.

"We represent thousands of trafficking victims, and it's like the same story. Different kid same story," McAdams, Jane Doe No. 19's attorney, said. "[Jane Doe] was 12 years old, on social media. The evidence in this case will show that her parents did the best that they could to monitor."

Despite Facebook's claim that it provides a safe environment, McAdams says human traffickers were able to message the girl and for six months, McAdams said, a man groomed her.

"[He would tell her] how attractive and pretty she is," McAdams said.

The lawsuit claims this man then convinced her to go with him to the Motel 6 at 2900 W. Sam Houston Parkway. He put her on Backpage and allegedly offered her up for sex.

"She was trafficked for a considerable amount of time after that. Repeatedly raped by multiple men," McAdams said.

It is a failure that McAdams said falls on the shoulders of those who she said makes it possible.

"The basis of this lawsuit is Facebook's knowing facilitation of human trafficking," McAdams said.

The lawsuit names Facebook, the executive of Backpage and Motel 6, whom McAdams said lied to Jane Doe's parents about her being there.

"This is really the first time we're seeing civil justice stand up and attempt to punish these other business entities," McAdams said.

The lawsuit claims Facebook does not do enough to protect young users, saying it has no identity verification and a weak warning system for human trafficking. The lawsuit also said Backpage workers helped pimps disguise their ads as legal.

"Some of the evidence actually showed that they had direct knowledge that these were children and would coach the pimps on how to change some of the language to be approved and to be posted," McAdams said.

"Code language, for example, like 'Lolita,' which means 'minor girl,'" according to McAdams.

Houston police eventually found Jane Doe. She was 15 years old. McAdams said she is one of the lucky ones.

McAdams said this case is the fourth of its kind in the country. Now they are asking for a least $1 million in damages. However, McAdams said that they merely needed to put a monetary cost for formality purposes. She said they will leave it up to a jury.

The lawsuit will go to a Harris County judge who will then set a trial date. We've reached out to Facebook and Motel 6.

Facebook offered the following statement:

“Human trafficking is abhorrent and is not allowed on Facebook. We use technology to thwart this kind of abuse and we encourage people to use the reporting links found across our site so that our team of experts can review the content swiftly. Facebook also works closely with anti-trafficking organizations and other technology companies, and we report all apparent instances of child sexual exploitation to NCMEC.”

We have yet to hear back from Motel 6.

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