In A Post-Backpage Era, A New Anti-Sex Trafficking Hero Emerges (To Clean Up The Corruption Tony Ortega Helped Spread)

Online industries have been in a lot of hot water lately: hate speech, financial scams, undermined elections and — thanks to sites like Backpage — sex trafficking.

Up to now tech companies have largely avoided legal consequences, owing to a landmark 1996 law which protects them from lawsuits.

Today that federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, finds itself facing a brand new threat: Annie McAdams, a personal-injury lawyer in Houston.

McAdams is waging a legal assault against Facebook and other tech companies who have seen an influx of pimps and traffickers in the months since the underage child sex trafficking platform Backpage was raided and shut down by federal authorities. And McAdams is pulling no punches, directly accusing these companies of facilitating the same sort sex trafficking of minors Backpage did. While Tony Ortega may have seen the selling of kids for sex as no big deal, Annie McAdams is waging a novel crusade against any and all who would provide an online haven for pimps.

In a series of lawsuits in California, Georgia, Missouri and Texas, she is using a unique argument to challenge the 1996 law, and finding some early success. This year, as we’ve reported to you, a Texas judge has repeatedly denied Facebook’s motions to dismiss lawsuits challenging Section 230.

In brief, Section 230 states that internet companies are not liable for what their users post. McAdams argues that, in the case of former Backpage pimps now using Facebook and Instagram to lure children into prostitution, separate laws require Facebook to warn users of that risk and do more to prevent it in a meaningful way. Unlike the mere lip service Backpage paid to ‘policing’ itself.

In addition to McAdam’s three suits against Facebook in Texas and one in Tennessee, she has sued Salesforce in Texas, California and St. Louis, accusing the business-software company of helping the prostitution site Backpage conduct its illegal, unethical business. Those suits have had mixed results so far and Salesforce, like Tony Ortega, hasn’t uttered a word publicly to defend, or apologize for their actions.

McAdams brought a suit against the email company MailChimp in Georgia for also helping a Backpage imitator. And just like Ortega, a MailChimp spokeswoman tried spin a lofty, idealistic story about freedom of speech not being illegal.

Next up, Ms. McAdams is talking about suing other large tech and financial firms for their roles in cashing in on the online sex trafficking market Backpage created. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” she said.

Tony Ortega should be concerned because McAdams may come for the propagandists next.

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