Twitter faces claim it benefited from child sex trafficking

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    Two young men can go on with a claim that Twitter Inc. profited from the sex trafficking they were involved in as teenagers when it posted child pornography videos on its website, but they cannot make any other claims, a California federal court ruled.

    The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act’s requirements for civil claims, including knowledge requirements, are less stringent than the requirements for criminal charges made under the law, District Court Chief Justice Joseph C. Spero said Thursday for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the benefit entitlement.

    The rest of the claims fail either because plaintiffs have insufficiently asserted them or because they are blocked by the Communications Decency Act, he said.

    Your product liability suit is different from one that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth District recently admitted in a lawsuit against app maker Snap Inc. over a “speed filter” that allegedly led to a fatal car accident, Spero said. In contrast to the speed filter, “the nature of the alleged design flaw in this case – and the damage allegedly resulting from that flaw – is directly related to the posting of third-party content on Twitter,” he said. The CDA excludes product liability claims, he said.

    Plaintiffs, who are suing under the pseudonyms John Doe # 1 and John Doe # 2, claim they were charged with sex trafficking and manipulated into sex trafficking at the age of 13 to provide the trafficker with pornographic videos of themselves, the court said. Links to the videos allegedly popped up on Twitter while they were in high school.

    Twitter reportedly refused to remove the tweets when it was first informed about it. The posts were reportedly viewed more than 167,000 times.

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    According to Spero, who leads the case, the facts do not fit a direct sex trafficking claim if the TVPRA language is read correctly. But the Doe plaintiffs successfully claimed that Twitter benefited from participating in a company they were involved in and should have known they were victims of sex trafficking, he said.

    Spero disagreed with the conclusion of a federal district court in Florida about the standards for such a lawsuit, saying they are not as strict as the criminal law requirements.

    The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, The Haba Law Firm PA, and the Matiasic Firm PC represent the plaintiffs. Cooley LLP represents Twitter.

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