STATEMENT – Twitter Must Be Held Accountable for Knowing Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material on Its Platform

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Two Survivors’ Lawsuit Against Twitter Must Not be Dismissed

Washington, DC (June 10, 2021) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center (NCOSE), The Haba Law Firm, and The Matiasic Firm is asking the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to deny Twitter’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit, John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 v. Twitter, Inc., filed by two survivors of child sexual abuse who were trafficked and exploited on the social media platform. The Plaintiffs’ brief opposing dismissal was filed this week.

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.

“Twitter knowingly permitted child sex abuse material exploiting two children on its platform. There must be accountability for its utter lack of reasonable care, which harmed these two young men,” said Peter Gentala, senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center.

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 Plaintiffs’ brief opposing dismissal addresses Twitter’s brazen claims that it should be held 100% immune for its conduct because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, even if it is party to sex trafficking.

“In CDA 230, Congress provided platforms like Twitter a safe harbor for good-faith removal—not bad-faith redistribution—of harmful material like obscenity and CSAM,” Gentala said.

The Plaintiff’s brief opposing dismissal also points out that Twitter is also outside the scope of CDA 230 immunity because it is a flawed technology product allowing the proliferation of sexual exploitation.

“Whether it is Twitter’s architecture for its online interface, mobile interface, API, search-function capability, ineffective reporting processes, or hashtags – or all of these things – [survivors’] allegations demonstrate an unreasonable risk of harm within Twitter’s actual platform design,” Gentala continued.

“Twitter believes it is above the law. It is not a passive observer. It was served notice that child sexual abuse material was circulating on its platform, and Twitter responded that it did not violate its policies. The compelling claims by these two courageous young men should be allowed to move forward,” Gentala added.

The survivors are suing Twitter for its involvement in and profiting from their sexual exploitation, which violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and various other protections afforded by law.

The Court has scheduled a hearing for July 30, 2021, to hear legal arguments from both sides on Twitter’s Motion to Dismiss.

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

About National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)
Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography.

About The Haba Law Firm, P.A.
The Haba Law Firm is a law firm in Greater Orlando area of Florida, that provides excellence in civil litigation on behalf of human trafficking and sexual abuse survivors. Haba Law prides itself on its aggressive and effective representation, honesty, and trauma-informed, victim centered advocacy. The unparalleled knowledge and experience with human trafficking and sexual abuse has resulted in partner Lisa Haba receiving numerous awards and recognitions for her work with survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse.

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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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