Attorney General Tim Fox joined 49 other state and territorial attorneys general in a bi-partisan coalition urging Congress to affirm that all law enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking. In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to clarify that states, localities, and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online. The simple word addition to the CDA proposed in this letter will help ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts.
“The Communications Decency Act was drafted back in 1996, when the Internet was in its infancy. Its original purpose was to protect children from accessing indecent materials online, but courts have interpreted certain provisions of the Act to provide immunity from State prosecution to online classified ad sites, like Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “We need to be sure federal law provides local prosecutors the tools they need to fight back against those who use technology to promote sexual exploitation of children,” Attorney General Fox added.
“Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes,” reads the letter, which was led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine.
The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, according to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the CDA to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.
“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote.
In addition to Florida and the District of Columbia, the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.