Days after Project Veritas released undercover videos exposing bias in the highest levels of Twitter with regard to censorship after the company acted in coordination with Facebook and it's social outlets to block the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump from any and all access, a lawsuit was filed yesterday in a federal court in California alleging that the company failed to act when it was legally required to.
Represented by lawyers from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation as well as the Haba Law Firm and the Matiasic Firm, the 17-year-old complainant, identified as John Doe was the victim of a compilation of images and videos that were released by sexual predators on Twitter in 2019.
"This lawsuit seeks to shine a light on how Twitter has enabled and profited from CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) on its platform, choosing profits over people, money over the safety of children, and wealth at the expense of human freedom and human dignity," the complaint obtained by Reclaim the Net reads.
The lawsuit further states that "With over 330 million users, Twitter is one of the largest social media companies in the world. It is also one of the most prolific distributors of material depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children."
"Twitter is not a passive, inactive, intermediary in the distribution of this harmful material; rather, Twitter has adopted an active role in the dissemination and knowing promotion and distribution of this harmful material. Twitter's own policies, practices, business model, and technology architecture encourage and profit from the distribution of sexual exploitation material."
The day after the sitting President was silenced on the platform, the National File released an article explaining that Twitter's own terms of service "allows pedophiles to openly talk about child rape on their platform" despite publicly attesting to having "zero tolerance towards any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation."
The suit further details that in 2017, when Doe was 13-14 he was contacted by users posing as a girl from his class in order to groom and solicit explicit images from him through Snapchat. Once he caved to the predator's requests, "the correspondence changed to blackmail."
Threatening to share the images with his "parents, coach, pastor, and others in his community," they requested increasingly graphic images and videos. "Initially John Doe complied with the Traffickers' demands."
"Because John Doe was (and still is) a minor and the pictures and videos he was threatened and coerced to produce include graphic sexual depictions of himself, including depictions of him engaging in sexual acts with another minor, the pictures and videos constitute CSAM under the law."
Eventually Doe worked to free himself from the predators and blocked them on social media. Then, through another account, they reportedly contacted him to tell him that "he had made a big mistake in blocking them." He remained resolute through, in breaking free and eventually communication from the abusers stopped.
On an undisclosed date in 2019, a video compilation of videos sent by Doe was posted to Twitter. Another Twitter user reported the content to Twitter on December 25, 2019. Despite receiving a claim number through Twitter support, no action was taken.
It was not until mid-January 2020 that Doe became aware of the video circulating on Twitter after being alerted by students at the high school he was attending who reported having viewed the footage themselves. "Due to the circulation of these videos, he faced teasing, harassment, vicious bullying, and became suicidal."
Doe turned to his parents for assistance and his mother, identified in the suit as "Jane Doe," "contacted school officials, local law enforcement, and reached out directly to Twitter" in order to get the footage removed while her son contacted the Twitter users directly to request that the material of him be removed.
One user deleted the tweet while the other ignored his request.
On January 21, 2020 Doe filed a complaint directly to Twitter reporting that he was the minor in the footage circulating and requested that they take action to remove the material from their platform.
Rather than taking immediate action based on the content of the video itself, the initial response Doe received from Twitter for complaint 0139512883 was to request that he provide some kind of identification to them to confirm that he was in fact the person in the material he reported.
He did so, and explained further stating, "Yes, these tweets are videos of me and a friend taken from 3 years ago. These videos were taken from harassment and being threatened."
On January 22, 2020, his mother filed two complaints directly with Twitter as well, including the case number from a local police department where the material had also been reported. She received the standard automated message indicating that the complaint had been received.
After a week of not hearing anything further, she followed up with Twitter on January 26 citing the case numbers from her previous report and indicating that her son "had been a victim in a sex abuse situation" and that "no one gave permission for these [videos] to be on your site."
Twitter responded two days later to John Doe's initial reporting saying, "We've reviewed the content, and didn't find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time."
He responded to them saying, "What do you mean you don't see a problem? We both are minors right now and were minors at the time these videos were taken. We both were 13 years of age. We were baited, harassed, and threatened to take these videos that are not being posted without our permission. We did not authorize these videos AT LL and they need to be taken down."
He again provided them with the case number for a local law enforcement agency where the material had been reported.
Eventually Jane Doe made contact with an agent at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and reported the offense and Twitter's failure to act. It was not until that agent made contact with Twitter that the material was finally removed from their platform, but not before it had been viewed over 167,000 times and retweeted over 2,200 times.
During the entire process, Twitter never reported the footage to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as required by law. It was only after the contact from HSI that they did so.
The complaint charges Twitter with benefitting from a sex trafficking venture, violation of duty to report child sexual abuse, receipt and distribution of child pornography, negligence, gross negligence, distribution of private sexually explicit materials, and other offenses.
The complaint is demanding a trial by jury.