Court Ruling: Twitter is One Step Closer to Being Held Accountable for Knowing Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material 

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WASHINGTON, DC (August 19, 2021) - The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center (NCOSE), The Haba Law Firm, and The Matiasic Firm received the order allowing the case, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 v. Twitter, Inc., to move forward. The lawsuit was filed by two survivors of child sexual abuse who were trafficked and exploited on Twitter.
 
“We are pleased with today’s ruling, as it’s the next step toward justice for our clients who suffered because of Twitter’s decision to allow their child sexual abuse material to circulate on its platform. No tech company should be allowed to profit from and outright ignore child sexual abuse material,” said Peter Gentala, senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. 
 
“In its Motion to Dismiss this lawsuit, Twitter brazenly claimed that it should be 100% immune for its conduct because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), even if it participates in a sex trafficking venture. But the Judge’s ruling today refutes that argument and allows our case to move forward, bringing us closer to justice for these two survivors and their families,” said Lisa Haba, partner at The Haba Law Firm. 
 
“This historic ruling is the first breakthrough for an online trafficking survivor in any court where Twitter has alleged CDA immunity,” Gentala added. 

The complaint alleges that plaintiffs John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 together were solicited and recruited for sex trafficking as minors. After they escaped from the manipulation, child sexual abuse material depicting them was disseminated on Twitter while they were still minors. Both plaintiffs were harmed by Twitter’s distribution of material depicting their sexual abuse and trafficking, and by Twitter’s knowing refusal to remove the images of their sexual abuse (child pornography) when notified by John Doe #1 and his parents.   

It is also alleged that when Twitter was first alerted to this fact and the ages of the children, Twitter refused to remove the illegal material and instead continued to promote and profit from the sexual abuse of the children. Twitter even reported back to one survivor that the video in question did not in fact violate any of their policies and would not be taken down. This lack of care and proper attention resulted in the child sexual abuse material accumulating over 167,000 views before direct involvement from a federal law enforcement officer, who was finally able to have Twitter remove the child pornography material.    
   
The Order from U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero rules that the Plaintiffs’ claim under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is not subject to dismissal, but dismisses the remaining claims under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Order can be found here.

For more information about this lawsuit visit: endsexualexploitation.org/twitterlawsuit  

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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