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Justice Clarence Thomas Urges Supreme Court to Re-Examine Giving Social Media Sites Broad Immunity

Justice Clarence Thomas Urges Supreme Court to Re-Examine Giving Social Media Sites Broad Immunity

Justice Clarence Thomas said this week that the Supreme Court should re-examine the issue of whether federal law should allow social media sites like Facebook to have broad legal immunity when those sites are used to commit crimes.

Previously, the court had declined to hear an appeal from a Texas woman who was friended on Facebook when she was 15 by a man who was a sex trafficker. In conversations with the man, the then-teenager told the man that she had an argument with her mother, and he told her that she could become a model and get her own apartment.

He picked her up, and within hours, she was raped, beaten, photographed and forced into sex trafficking, according to NBC News.

The lawsuit said that Facebook should have been able to see that he was a sex trafficker because his postings contained content related to human trafficking.

"Indeed, the user's Facebook connects unquestionably include sex traffickers and their victims," the lawsuit said. "Facebook knows that human traffickers use its products 'to identify, cultivate, and then exploit human trafficking victims. Nonetheless, Facebook remains an active participant in facilitating these connections."

The woman was rescued by police and then sued Facebook. The Texas Supreme Court, however, ruled that a federal law provision, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, gives social media sites and internet providers immunity from lawsuits that arise from user postings.

This week, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, with Justice Thomas saying he agreed that the court shouldn't take the case, but that the court needed to "address the proper scope of immunity" in those cases.

"It is hard to see why the protection grants publishers against being held strictly liable for third parties' content should protect Facebook from liability for its own 'acts and omissions,'" Thomas said in a statement. "At the very least, before we close the door on such serious charges, we should be certain that is what the law demands."


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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.