September 7, 2017

Amend the CDA: No Single Legal Reform More Vital to Stop Sex Trafficking

As Congress returns from its August recess, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation calls on members of both the House and Senate to move swiftly to amend Section 230 Communications Decency Act (CDA)—a law that as currently interpreted by federal courts shields Internet companies that facilitate sex trafficking.

Classified advertising websites make it as easy as ordering a pizza to order human beings for sex from the privacy of one’s home, office, hotel room, or cell phone. Many of those bought and sold via such websites are sexually trafficked children and adults. One such notorious website,, built its entire business model on facilitating online sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, according to a U.S. Senate investigation. There is no single legal reform that is more vital to stopping sex trafficking than amending Section 230 of Communications Decency Act.

Expeditious passage of H.R. 1865 Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) and S. 1693 Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) will move the country closer to striking a blow against the online havens that facilitate sex trafficking. We believe that reasonable reforms to Section 230 are essential to ensure that bad actors like can no longer hide behind the safe harbor provisions of the law when they knowingly or with reckless disregard allow sex-trafficking ads to be posted on their site.

Importantly, when the First Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its decision in Doe v. Backpage in Boston, it effectively expanded Section 230 to protect websites alleged to have engaged in criminal conduct in violation of the federal anti-trafficking law. Thus, Section 230 now protects conduct rather than speech.

These proposed Section 230 CDA amendments target only criminal conduct that never has had any First Amendment or free speech protection. The First Circuit decision noted above specifically stated that Section 230 conflicted with the TVPRA (federal trafficking statute) and that the children in the Jane Doe cases needed to seek a legislative remedy. Several judges, in dismissing similar cases against Backpage, have called on Congress to act.

We join with these members of the bench, victims, U.S. Attorneys General from 48 states, and anti-trafficking advocates from across the country in calling on the U.S. Congress to act without delay to pass meaningful reforms to the CDA. is a member of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s 2017 Dirty Dozen List due to its history of facilitating, and profiting from, sexual exploitation. To learn more about the Communications Decency Act visit

Patrick A. Trueman


Patrick Trueman serves as president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.  He spearheads efforts to address the intersectionality between all forms of sexual exploitation, including the public health crisis of pornography, the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, the abuse of children, and more. Under his leadership, NCOSE has produced policy improvements at a wide range of notable institutions, including Google, Wal-Mart, the Department of Justice, Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission, and more.

In 2015, Mr. Trueman, a lawyer for more than 40 years, established the organization’s Law Center, to influence the law and our courts to ensure the values of human dignity are represented.

Patrick Trueman is a former Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division at the U. S. Department of Justice from 1988 to 1993. While there, he supervised the prosecution of child sex crimes, child pornography, and obscenity, managing an office of prosecutors and working with the nation’s ninety-three United States Attorneys to initiate and coordinate federal prosecutions.

During his years as a lawyer, he litigated cases at all levels of the federal system, including in the United States Supreme Court. He has been an advisor to many municipalities on First Amendment law and has helped draft ordinances to end or curb the impact of sexually oriented businesses such as pornography shops, strip clubs, and related establishments. A recognized international expert, Mr. Trueman has traveled throughout the world to speak about human trafficking and the harms of sexual exploitation.

Mr. Trueman lives just outside Washington, D.C., and is married to Laura Clay Trueman. Laura and Pat Trueman have three children.



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