Attorney General Sam Olens joined 49 attorneys general (who are the holdouts I wonder?) to call on Congress to give them the authority to fight child sex trafficking on the internet. From the press release:
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was drafted when the internet was in its infancy. The original purpose of the Act was to protect children from accessing indecent material online, but courts have interpreted certain provisions of the Act in a way that provides online classified ad sites immunity from State prosecution. Under this protection, sites such as Backpage.com have knowingly created an online marketplace for prostitution and, consequently, child sex trafficking. Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online. Such sites are extremely lucrative. Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.
“It is ironic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the internet, is now used as a shield by those who intentionally profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote in the letter.
The proposed amendment is narrowly crafted to combat this conduct. Absent interstate travel, federal property or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is not a federal crime. The proposal would remove a loophole that had denied state and local jurisdiction over online classified ads, including those for prostitution and child sex trafficking. By maintaining civil immunity, mainstream online content providers will not be affected, and innovation on the internet will be preserved. If the amendment is enacted, state and local governments will have the ability to criminally investigate whether these sites and their management are culpable for aiding and abetting prostitution or other similar crimes.
“Traffickers have taken advantage of loopholes in the current law to sexually exploit children on the internet,” said Olens. “A majority of the victims recovered by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, for example, have been advertised on Backpage.com at some point. As the tactics used by traffickers evolve, we must ensure that the law is modernized to effectively combat this heinous crime.”
I applaud AG Olens for joining this effort and hope the Congress will take action soon.