Harris County family files lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram claiming sites enable human trafficking

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston family is filing a lawsuit against two major social media networks over human trafficking.

The lawsuit targets the massive social media companies Facebook and Instagram after the family says the companies failed to protect their child from human trafficking.

"For years now, Facebook and Instagram platforms has permitted sex traffickers unfiltered access to the most vulnerable members of society," Jane Doe's lawyer Annie McAdams said.

The lawsuit claims the sites have "treated our children as a commodity, and participated in the trafficking of thousands of our children."

"I think parents need to understand that simply looking at who your children are friends with on social media is not enough," McAdams said. "Traffickers routinely infiltrate or take over victim's social media accounts to communicate and recruit with new kids."

Rebecca Beavers, who works with human trafficking victims through the Anti-Trafficking Alliance, says social media is a common thread.

"I think they're turning a blind eye and don't want to admit this is happening," Beavers said. "It's a big business."

There is an Instagram post shared by the victim's family that says their 15-year-old daughter's account was being used by other sex traffickers to lure in victims.

The mother told Eyewitness News that she asked for help, but claims nothing was done.

"We included one of the alerts that says "This site is being used to traffic children. Do something about it. And they did nothing. That is why this lawsuit was filed," McAdams said. "If they are not going to listen to their users, they will respond to a Harris County jury."

Facebook says they have a team of experts to review content swiftly, but the lawsuit alleges that's not reality.

"We're seeking radical disruption in the way these social media giants operate. The way you do that is you punish them with money damages. It's the only thing a corporation will understand," McAdams said.

Eyewitness News has reached out to both Facebook and Instagram asking for a response to the lawsuit, neither company responded.

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