Rep. Ann Wagner Discusses Amending the CDA
October 3, 2017

Silenced No More: Online Sex Trafficking Victims Deserve Real Solutions

Today, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing at 10:00 AM EST concerning online sex trafficking and the Communications Decency Act (CDA). For years, the courts have interpreted Section 230 of the CDA as granting broad immunity to websites such as Backpage.com and others that publish third-party content and facilitate sex trafficking from any criminal liability.

Major tech companies have supported Backpage.com in the courts and lobbied against amending the CDA in Congress for fear of hypothetical lawsuits—what one judge called ‘death by ten thousand duck bites.’ But children, women, and men are actually being bought and sold online every day. There’s nothing hypothetical about their sexual exploitation.

 

Lisa Thompson Addresses Audience at NCOSE CDA Briefing
Lisa Thompson Addresses Audience at NCOSE CDA Briefing

Conspicuously missing from today’s hearing were trafficking victims themselves whose serial rape and sexual slavery were made possible by the likes of Backpage.com and other similar websites. The factual testimonies of sex trafficking victims and their families ought to carry more weight in Congress than any consideration of hypothetical lawsuits the tech industry so melodramatically fears. We’ve yet to see if these so-called ducks bite, but victims of online sex trafficking are proof that sex traffickers do.

The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children has reported a staggering 846% increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking to its CyberTipline in recent years. In light of the tech lobby’s overwrought concerns about litigation, it is important to note that the legislative fixes being advanced in Congress are narrowly tailored to address the issue of online sex trafficking in order to protect good online actors from frivolous litigation.

Even so, the tech community is unrelentingly and vociferously opposing efforts to ensure that interactive computer service providers that facilitate sex trafficking are brought to justice. Consumer Watchdog released a detailed report on this issue entitled How Google’s Backing of Backpage Protects Child Sex Traffickingand GoogleTransparencyProject.com also sheds light on the connection between Google and Backpage.com.

Tackling the problem head on, U.S. Representative Ann Wagner has proposed a strong legislative remedy to this scourge—the bipartisan Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.

NCOSE with Rep. Ann Wagner at CDA Briefing
NCOSE with Rep. Ann Wagner and Mary Mazzio, producer of the I Am Jane Doe documentary, at CDA Briefing

Despite concerted opposition from the titans of tech and their allies, there is a groundswell of support for both House and Senate efforts to amend the CDA from a diverse range of entities, including tech giant Oracle, nearly 100 non-governmental organizations, 35 United States Senators, and more than 150 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This was further evidenced by the turnout at an event hosted yesterday by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation entitled: “The Crisis of Digital Slave Auctions: How Congress Can Fight Online Sex Trafficking by Amending the Communications Decency Act.”

Representative Ann Wagner recently championed this crucial cause in Congress stating, “It’s heartbreaking to watch survivors struggle to piece their lives back together alone, while our so-called justice system shields the websites that sold them. In April, I introduced the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which now has 150 cosponsors. This bill narrowly amends Section 230 to ensure that websites profiting from sex trafficking do not have legal immunity. It’s time for Congress to protect victims, not the multi-million dollar online businesses that sell the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Rep. Ann Wagner Discusses Amending the CDA
Rep. Ann Wagner Discusses Amending the CDA

 

Lisa L. Thompson

Lisa L. Thompson, Vice President of Research and Education, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Vice President & Director, Research Institute

As Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Lisa conducts policy analysis and advocacy, advances understanding of pornography’s public health harms, and liaises with public officials, advocates, and academics to advance strategies combating the web of sexual exploitation, including pornography, stripping, prostitution, sexual trafficking, sexual assault, and more.

Lisa joined NCOSE following two years with World Hope International where as Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa oversaw sex trafficking recovery programs in Cambodia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global. Lisa also routinely speaks and trains on sexual exploitation topics for a diverse range of audiences. Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters.

Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Western Kentucky University, and Master’s degree in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute and University.

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