STATEMENT: Google Opposes Efforts to Amend CDA, Supports Websites Facilitating Sex Trafficking
These actions come after reports reveal Google’s longtime support of Backpage.com, well-known trafficking website
Washington, DC – Today, Google lobbyists blitzed members of the U.S. Congress with this email asking them to stop their efforts to combat online sex trafficking by amending section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) in the respective bills S. 1693 and H.R. 1865. As currently interpreted by U.S. federal courts, Section 230 of the CDA grants broad immunity to Internet platforms for third-party posts, even to websites that intentionally facilitate sex trafficking online such as Backpage.com.
“You would think a company whose motto is ‘don’t be evil’ would think twice before choosing the side of websites that facilitate sex trafficking,” said Patrick Trueman, president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “Google lobbyists are bombarding members of Congress with emails against passage of the only legislation that will dramatically decrease sex trafficking of girls, boys, and adults online. This is a case of Big Tech caring more about its bottom line than the victims of serial rape for profit.”
“Amending the CDA will allow victims of sex trafficking to hold websites that intentionally and knowingly facilitated their abuse accountable. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauds those in Congress who show the courage to support the countless victims of sex trafficking rather than yield to the tech industry’s lobbying. All human rights activists will watch this battle closely to learn which Members of Congress will side with sex trafficking victims and which will side with Google and the sex traffickers,” Trueman said.
Google’s ties to Backpage.com:
A coalition of groups spearheaded by California-based Consumer Watchdog recently released an incriminating report entitled How Google’s Backing of Backpage Protects Child Sex Trafficking. The report exposes Google’s multipronged efforts to defend Backpage.com, a website notorious for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking of women and children.
Research by Consumer Watchdog reveals that Google has provided millions of dollars to support Backpage’s legal defense. Much of that legal defense hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
Reportedly, lobbyists for Google also helped eliminate a version of a bill that would have required firms to determine the age of people appearing in their online adult ads. Moreover, a Harvard professor uncovered that in 2011 that Google earned over a billion dollars in revenue from unlawful advertising they had failed to block which included child sex trafficking.
About section 230 of the CDA:
In 1996, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in an effort to protect children from Internet pornography. However, the Supreme Court later invalidated most of the law except for Section 230, which gives immunity to “Interactive Computer Service” providers who publish third-party posts.
In a series of court cases favoring Backpage.com, the courts have interpreted Section 230 to give third-party hosting sites carte blanche immunity for sex trafficking. Such a reality was never Congress’ intent.
As a result, Backpage.com has escaped successful prosecution and Internet-facilitated sex trafficking is flourishing across the country. For example, the California Attorney General’s office reported that from 2013-2015, 99% of Backpage’s worldwide income was directly attributable to its ads selling people for sex. Yet, Backpage has avoided successful prosecution thus far because the ads soliciting sex are posted by third-party users.