February 23, 2018

Press Statement: Kentucky State Legislators Call on Congress to Amend CDA to Fight Online Sex Trafficking

Washington, DC – Today Kentucky’s House of Representatives unanimously signaled to the U.S. Congress that it is time to stem the burgeoning growth of online sex trafficking by amending the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In an 83-0 vote, Kentucky’s legislature passed a resolution sending the unequivocal message to Congress that all those who facilitate sex trafficking must be held accountable—including website operators with business models built on sexual exploitation. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) applauds this action, as well as Reps. Donna Mayfield (Retired, U.S. Marshals Service) and Melinda Prunty for spearheading this effort.

“People are not objects to be sold online,” said Lisa L. Thompson, Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “The Kentucky House of Representatives has gone on the record in support of this fundamental human principle. Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to do the same.”

“In a tragic series of court cases favoring Backpage.com—a classified advertising website that facilitates sex trafficking—the courts have interpreted Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to give third-party hosting sites carte blanche immunity for everything and anything that occurs online. This includes turning the Internet into a modern-day auction block for sexually trafficked women and children.”

“This impunity from the law has resulted in mass sexploitation,” Thompson continued. “In Seattle alone, law enforcement has identified more than 130 websites where people—many of whom are sexually trafficked women and children—are bought and sold for sex.”

“Because the CDA has stymied the efforts of police and prosecutors, law enforcement is left to chase down and arrest small time sex traffickers in a futile ‘whack-a-mole approach,’ while the kingpins of sex trafficking—the website operators that provide the platform for sex trafficking operations—get off scot-free.”

“The National Center on Sexual Exploitation calls on U.S. Representatives to pass H.R. 1865 FOSTA (sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner) with the Mimi Walters amendment which contains the vital CDA reforms contained in S. 1693 SESTA (sponsored by Sen. Portman, Blumenthal, and McCaskill),” said Thompson. “This FOSTA-SESTA combination will restore to law enforcement vital tools for holding criminals accountable and victims their rights of civil action.”

Thompson added, “On Tuesday members of the U.S. House of Representatives have an important decision to make. They can either side with the money and influence of certain powerful interests within the technology sector by watering down this effort, or they can act nobly to protect the vulnerable and often silenced victims of online sex trafficking.”

“With today’s action, Kentucky’s House of Representatives joined with survivorsAttorney Generals from 48 Statescelebrities, and advocacy groups from across the country in urging Congress to amend the CDA.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation drafted the Kentucky resolution, and the Family Foundation of Kentucky did significant work to advance and encourage its passage.

To learn more about the Communications Decency Act and its role in facilitating online sex trafficking visit endsexualexploitation.org/cda.

Further Reading