April 3, 2017

STATEMENT: NCOSE Supports Congresswoman Wagner’s Bill to Stop Online Sex Trafficking

Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE

Washington DC – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO) introduced a bill today to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which has been used to shield online facilitators of sex trafficking. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) applauds this effort to clarify the law.

“It’s no secret that sex trafficking and prostitution have extended online. It’s time for our laws to do the same,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “Unfortunately, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has been wildly misinterpreted by courts to effectively grant immunity to websites like Backpage.com, which are known facilitators of sex trafficking. We must hold companies accountable when their business model is based on facilitating the sale of women, men, and children for sex.”

“The original purpose of the CDA was to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  Section 230 was added to the CDA to protect Internet companies from being held responsible for content generated independently by third-party users,” Hawkins added. “The CDA, except for Section 230, was found to be unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court. Ironically, without the original context of the law, Section 230 of the CDA has now been held by courts to shield facilitators of child and adult sexual trafficking.”

“We call on Congress to swiftly pass the Wagner bill, which would remove immunities from sex trafficking websites. It’s time for Congress to stand with the victims of sex trafficking, not the tech companies that want blanket immunity for sex trafficking or prostitution occurring on their platforms.”

NCOSE recently constructed the Freedom from Sexploitation Agenda—16 concrete policy suggestions for Congress and the executive branch to combat various forms of sexual exploitation. Amending the CDA is NCOSE’s top recommendation.

Backpage.com is a member of NCOSE’s 2017 Dirty Dozen List due to its history of facilitating and profiting from sexual exploitation. You can learn more at http://endsexualexploitation.org/backpage/.

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