Social media giant Twitter is facing a lawsuit from a victim of teenage sex trafficking who says that, even after being alerted, the platform refused to take down widely shared pornographic images of him.
According to a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the now 17-year-old boy was just 13 when he became the target of sex traffickers who tricked him into believing they were his 16-year-old female classmate.
The traffickers utilized the Snapchat app to lure the boy into sending nude photos. Once in their possession, the criminals used the pictures to blackmail him into performing perverse sex acts and sending other explicit material. He was threatened that if he did not comply, his naked photos would be sent to his "parents, coach, pastor," and classmates. The boy subsequently sent other material, even involving another minor in some videos he sent.
Sometime during 2019 those videos surfaced on Twitter, coming from two accounts notorious for sharing child pornography. Twitter was notified three times within a month about the offensive content, but did nothing, according to lawsuit filed against the tech company.
Classmates of the young man viewed the material online, subjecting him to further disgrace, including "teasing, harassment, [and] vicious bullying." Court records indicate the boy even became "suicidal" over the situation.
After the family contacted Twitter, even submitting a copy of the boy's identification to the company's support agent, they were informed that the videos would remain.
"Thanks for reaching out," Twitter responded in a statement to the family. "We've reviewed the content, and didn't find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time."
Outraged, the victim wrote back to Twitter himself.
"What do you mean you don't see a problem?" he asked. "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 now being posted without our permission. We did not authorize these videos AT ALL and they need to be taken down."
Only after an agent from the Department of Homeland Security became involved did Twitter remove the videos.
Twitter has not responded publicly to the lawsuit.