Facebook Blamed for Trafficking of Tennessee Girl

(CN) – The mother of a Tennessee girl sued Facebook on Wednesday, claiming the social media giant allowed her then-15-year-old daughter to be groomed and extorted by human traffickers who kidnapped her and sold her to hundreds of sexual predators while she was locked in a hotel bathroom for 10 days.

Represented by Nashville attorney Michael Hamilton, the mother filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Circuit Court against Facebook, Choice Hotels and RIA LLC, the operators of a Nashville Rodeway Inn where the girl was allegedly forced by traffickers to be raped in exchange for money.

The mother, identified in her lawsuit as Jane Doe, claims her daughter, Jane Doe #18, was immediately beaten, drugged and kidnapped by 35-year-old Charles Denton, who began communicating with her daughter using Facebook private messenger.

Denton drove her to a local Rodeway Inn, where for a 10-day period in August 2017, she “was beaten, raped, drugged, starved, and locked in the bathroom” while being sold “hundreds of times to sexual predators,” according to the complaint.

Denton, who faces seven counts of sex trafficking in Davidson County following his arrest last April, is not named as a defendant in Wednesday’s lawsuit.

The mother argues Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, should be held liable for providing predators a platform to prey on victims. She also blamed the hotel for allegedly turning a blind eye to human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors.

“Facebook has continually been used to facilitate human trafficking by allowing sex traffickers an unrestricted platform to stalk, exploit, recruit, groom, and extort children into the sex trade,” the 30-page lawsuit states, calling the site “the first point of contact between sex traffickers and child victims.”

Facebook’s press team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning. Neither did a spokesman for the Maryland-based Choice Hotels.  

The lawsuit claims the hotel chain “continued to endorse the Rodeway Inn as Good! despite the fact that minors were routinely trafficked at this location.”

A spokeswoman for Facebook said in an October statement after a similar lawsuit was filed in Texas that the company works closely with anti-trafficking organizations and other technology companies to thwart human traffickers from its site.

The mother seeks punitive damages for claims of negligence and emotional distress.

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