WILMINGTON, Del. (NEWSnet/AP) — Attorneys for Meta Platforms, along with founder Mark Zuckerberg, are asking a judge to dismiss a shareholder lawsuit alleging the company has deliberately failed to protect users of its social platforms from human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

The lawsuit, filed last year by several investment funds, claims that Meta’s directors and senior executives have long known about rampant human trafficking and child sexual exploitation on Facebook and Instagram, but have failed to address the predatory behavior.

“For years, Meta’s directors and senior executives have known that pedophiles and human and sex traffickers have been using Facebook and Instagram to facilitate their noxious activities,” plaintiffs’ attorney Christine Mackintosh told Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster during a hearing Tuesday. “But despite this, Meta’s directors utterly failed to implement board level oversight and controls to ferret out these heinous activities and to stop them from proliferating on Meta’s platforms.”

David Ross, an attorney for Meta, argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the alleged conduct of the company’s leaders has not resulted in Meta suffering “corporate trauma” as required by Delaware law. The company also argues that the lawsuit’s claims are based on speculation that it might face future harm or loss.

The plaintiffs contend, however, Meta has already suffered harm, including sharp drops in its share price and market capitalization amid media reports about trafficking and child sex abuse involving its platforms.

They also point to “massive legal defense costs” in related litigation and allege that Meta also has suffered “reputational harm.”

Meta also argues that the lawsuit must be dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to demand that the board take action before filing their lawsuit. Such a demand is typically required before a shareholder can file a “derivative complaint” on behalf of a corporation over alleged harm to the company caused by its officers or directors.

The plaintiffs say the demand requirement should be excused as “futile” because board directors are defendants who face a substantial likelihood of liability, and many are beholden to Zuckerberg instead of being independent.

In a statement, Meta spokesman Andy Stone said the company has spent “over a decade fighting these terrible abuses both on and off our platforms and supporting law enforcement in arresting and prosecuting the criminals behind it.”

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