While NCOSE’s activism targeting corporate policies and its public policy agenda have led to major successes, it is clear to us that much more is needed to address the complex and wide-ranging issues of sexual exploitation—particularly in the courts. This became obvious when we saw ourselves missing critical opportunities for change simply because the movement to end sexual exploitation did not have a hard-charging legal team. Other movements working on important social issues have such a team. They are in the courts, in the legislatures, and they rack up many important victories because of it.
For this reason, NCOSE launched a Law Center in 2015, and it is active on many fronts.
NCOSE’S Law Center is directed by Patrick Trueman, former Chief, US Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
The Law Center quickly found there is no shortage of opportunities to further this great cause. It was our Law Center that drafted the Resolution declaring pornography to be a “public health crisis,” which passed the Utah legislature, and was signed by Governor Gary Herbert. This same resolution is now under consideration in a variety of other states as well as by the parliaments of Canada and Israel, and it is getting great press for our cause.
Our Law Center was asked to write a key legal brief for the Georgia Supreme Court in a case where a child predator was claiming he had a constitutional right to find children online and talk to them about sex in an arousing and exploitive manner. This line of argument was accepted in another supreme court in a different state so we knew we had to be involved in the Georgia case. In the end, our legal brief helped to convince the Georgia Supreme Court to rule against the child predator.
Our legal team recently filed an amicus brief in a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case challenging California’s anti-prostitution law. The groups challenging that law are arguing that all sexual activity, no matter what, is a protected right under our U. S. Constitution. It is obvious where this would end up if they win. All laws against prostitution and of course pornography would be threatened and we would almost certainly see an increase in sex trafficking and child sexual abuse as a result.
Our legal team is also finishing a significant project to update an immensely helpful and highly demanded legal manual that teaches local and state officials how to ward off sexually oriented businesses with regulations, zoning, and more. It will be particularly useful to communities that want to stop the spread of illicit massage parlors that are actually brothels. The NCOSE Law Center is one of a kind, so our lawyers are contacted regularly with new requests – many of which we have to turn down. It is our hope that we can grow the Law Center so that it can take on more of these cases.
I hope you see that the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is unique and that we are the only organization doing what we do. We are leading a movement to end sexual exploitation through education and advocacy, and the law.
Statement by Patrick A. Trueman, President & CEO NCOSE Washington, DC – A guilty plea revealed by multiple news sources of Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer portends an end to sex trafficking as we know it in America. The U. S. Department of Justice has finally struck at the heart of the world of sex trafficking, […]
Below is a joint letter by human rights activists, organized by IAmJaneDoe, to members of Congress regarding new legislation that could dramatically decrease online sex trafficking As organizations committed to the protection of trafficking victims, we are deeply concerned by the pervasive misinformation being posited in opposition to the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of […]
Today, the governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, officially signed the joint resolution declaring pornography as a “public health crisis” in the state. The nonbinding resolution was sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and was passed with overwhelming support. It calls for education, prevention resources, and research on the negative effects of pornography. Tennessee is […]
Did you know that existing federal obscenity laws prohibit the distribution of hardcore, obscene pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite or hotel/motel TV and in sexually oriented businesses or other retail shops? I was once in charge of enforcing these laws for the U. S. Department of Justice and I know how effective they can […]
ACTION ALERT! Invite your Members of Congress to attend this critical briefing on a range of sexual exploitation issues. Let them know that you want their office to make these issues a priority! Like never before in this country’s history, America is suffering from systemic sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, pornography and […]
Major Update: the Virginia State House just passed the Virginia resolution recognizing the harms of pornography, similar to the one passed in Utah and South Dakota, with an overwhelming majority of 82-8. The resolution will now move on to the Virginia State Senate. This decision by the Virginia State House also follows on the heels […]
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation does not endorse or support the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (HTPA) also called the Children’s Online Filtering Act. It is not that the ideas in the proposed legislation are without merit, but the bill does not appear to be drafted with careful precision. For example, Section 5, titled, “Duty […]
Yesterday, the resolution we drafted recognizing pornography as a public health crisis was introduced in subcommittee in the state of Virginia by VA Delegate Bob Marshall and it passed UNANIMOUSLY! We are especially excited because most folks expected this to be shot down, but even the committee members agreed that the testimony from two of […]
EVENT ALERT The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is hosting an online press conference Monday, January 30 at 1:00 PM ET to outline policy recommendations to Congress and the new administration. Watch the press conference on NCOSE’s Facebook page. [UPDATED – Video Uploaded Here.] For the last 7 years, we at NCOSE have worked hard to make sure officials […]
The Law Center quickly found there is no shortage of opportunities to further this great cause. It was our Law Center that drafted the Resolution declaring pornography to be a “public health crisis,” which passed the Utah legislature, and was signed by Governor Gary Herbert. This same resolution is now under consideration in a variety […]
In the digital age, sex trafficking of children and adults flourishes online. Why? In large part because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) has been interpreted by federal and state courts to 1): prevent sex trafficking victims from suing websites that advertised them as for sale under either state or federal laws, and 2): prevent states from enforcing criminal laws against websites that carry ads for sex trafficking.
Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) in the early days of the Internet to protect children from online exposure to indecent content. In Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997), the Supreme Court struck down the Internet indecency provisions of the CDA but did not strike down the provisions that became 47 USC 230.
47 USC 230 was enacted in response to two court cases. In Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F. Supp. 135 (S.D.N.Y. 1991), CompuServe’s motion for a summary judgment was granted because the court determined that CompuServe was a distributor and not a publisher of libelous comments posted on a “computerized database” and because it had not been shown that CompuServe knew or should have known of the libelous comments. In Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., 1995 WL 323710 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995), the court granted plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgement after determining that Prodigy was a publisher of libelous comments posted on its computer bulletin board because Prodigy had held itself out to the public and its members as controlling content and had implemented this control through its software screening program and “Guidelines” which “Board Leaders” were required to enforce.
The import of these court decisions was clear: if an online service did little or nothing to curb defamatory content, it would not be held liable; if it tried to curb such content it could be liable.
In response to Stratton Oakmont, Representatives Chris Cox (R-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced an amendment to the CDA which became 47 USC 230. Subsection 230(c)(1) states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
What (c)(1) does not say is that no provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as a distributor of information provided by another, but that is how most courts interpreted it. For a good argument that 230(c)(1) was not intended to eliminate the difference between distributors and publishers, see Barrett v. Rosenthal, 114 Cal.App.4th 1379 (Cal. Ct. App. 2004).
Congress provided additional protection for providers and users of an interactive computer services in 230(c)(2)(A) by ensuring that no provider or user is held civilly liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of objectionable material. The efforts of Prodigy when owned by IBM and Sears to make its service family friendly is a good place to begin to determine what is a good faith effort.
Furthermore, 230(c) is entitle “Protection for ‘Good Samaritan’ Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material;” and Subsection (c) is part of a law (47 U.S.C. 230) which was intended to provide “Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material.”
How then did a law intended to protect providers or users of interactive computer services who act voluntarily and in good faith to restrict access to or availability of objectionable material become a protection against civil liability for those who accept payment to carry ads for sex trafficking knowing or having reason to know the ads are for sex trafficking? Surely this was not the intent of members of Congress who voted to add Section 230 to Title 47.
Subsection 230(e)(3) makes clear that States cannot in a civil action treat a provider or user of an interactive computer service as the publisher or speaker of information provided by another and cannot hold a provider or user civilly liable on account of action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of objectionable material. But 230(e)(3) was not intended to prevent a State from criminally prosecuting a provider or user for facilitating sex trafficking, since such providers/users are not acting in good faith.
In a letter to members of Congress dated August 16, 2017 and signed by Attorneys General from 48 states, the National Association of Attorneys General had this to say:
In 2013, Attorneys General from 49 states and territories wrote to Congress, informing it that some courts have interpreted the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“CDA”) to render state and local authorities unable to take action against companies that actively profit from the promotion and facilitation of sex trafficking and crimes against children… The undersigned Attorneys General once again respectfully request… Congress amend the CDA to affirm that state, territorial, and local authorities retain their traditional jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those who facilitate illicit acts. . . .
. . . Backpage.com is facilitating—and profiting from—these illegal activities. However, certain interpretations of the CDA have resulted in companies like Backpage.com remaining outside the reach of state and local law enforcement …We do not believe that was Congress’s intent in passing the CDA, and . . . do not believe that is Congress’s intent now. . . .
Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children—state and local law enforcement—must have the clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes. . . .
Contrary to popularly held beliefs, obscenity (most hardcore pornography) is not protected Free Speech. In fact, federal obscenity laws, which are not being enforced, prohibit distribution of hardcore, obscene pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite or hotel/motel TV and in sexually oriented businesses and other retail shops. See EndSexualExploitation.org/woip for more information.
Enforcement of obscenity laws does not raise Constitutional problem – In Chaplinksy v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571-572 (1942), the Supreme Court said: “There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene…It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
Obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press – In Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957), Justice Brennan observed that “this Court has always assumed that obscenity is not protected by the freedoms of speech and press” (at 481). In Roth, the Supreme Court went on to hold that obscenity is “not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press” (at 485).
First Amendment was intended to protect ideas and debate, not obscene material – In Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 34 (1973), the Supreme Court said: “[T]o equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a ‘misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and…press.’”
More recently, in Ashcroft v. ACLU, 535 U.S. 564!(2002), the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to application of obscenity laws to the Internet. See also, United States v. Extreme Associates, 431 F.3d 150 (3rd Cir. 2005), cert. den., 547 U.S. 1143 (2006).
In Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 57 (1973), the Supreme Court identified “legitimate governmental interests” that justify a prohibition on obscene materials “even if it is feasible to enforce eðective safeguards against exposure to juveniles.” These include protecting the community environment, public safety, morality and family life. The Court also said there is a “right of the Nation and of the states to maintain a decent society” (at 59).
The display of pornography is also a frequent factor in workplace sexual harassment cases, and time wasted viewing pornography reduces worker productivity. Our nation’s role in polluting the world with pornography is also making the war against terrorism more diðcult. Common sense should also inform us that when children are exposed to graphic depictions of hardcore adult pornography their attitudes about sex, sexual desires and sexual behavior can be influenced for the worst. And especially on the Internet, large numbers of children are being exposed to hardcore adult pornography.
According to the results of a national opinion poll commissioned by Morality in Media and conducted by Harris Interactive in April 2008: 75% of adult Americans said they would support the next President were he to do all in his or constitutional power to ensure that federal obscenity laws are enforced vigorously.
Decriminalized prostitution refers to the removal of laws criminalizing the sex trade. One form of decriminalization—commonly referred to as the Nordic model—targets only individuals involved in the selling of sex (i.e. prostituting persons); other forms of decriminalization may seek to decriminalize all parties involved in the provisioning, buying, and selling of sex. Thus, “full” decriminalization refers to the repeal of laws pertaining to pimping, brothel keeping, and sex buyers, as well as those who sell sex.
Legalized prostitution is generally understood to be regulated prostitution, although the term may also be used to refer to jurisdictions where there is no law explicitly prohibiting prostitution. Under systems of legalized prostitution, various regulations governing how commercial sex transaction are to be conducted are instituted. Such regulations may include brothel licensing requirements and restrictions on where brothels can locate, as well as establish requirements that prostituting persons officially register with the government, undergo compulsory health checks, and pay taxes on proceeds from prostitution.
A third approach to prostitution is known as prohibition. According to this approach all prostitution is viewed as criminal activity and all activities connected with prostitution (i.e. soliciting, procuring, pimping, brothel keeping) are criminalized.
Decriminalization of prostitution gives social sanction to sexual exploitation.
We believe prostitution is a system of sexual exploitation that requires Abolition, not social sanction. It is a system whereby individuals are supplied as public, sexual commodities, which preys upon vulnerable members of society and is rife with violence against those sold for sex. Decriminalization of prostitution in no way rectifies the conditions of inequality, abuse, violence, and dehumanization which animate all forms of prostitution—it tragically assents to them.
At its best, decriminalization of prostitution may be a crude and naïve attempt to ameliorate deeply entrenched sexual exploitation. But at its worst, decriminalization of prostitution is a nefarious miscarriage of justice that “disappears” egregious human rights abuses by use of political smoke and mirrors that authorize profiteering from sexual violence, and accede to a right of some individuals to purchase other human beings for sex. In sum, decriminalization grants impunity to pimps, magically morphing them into reputable, sexually-oriented business entrepreneurs, and mystically transforming sex buyers into respectable clients.
 Importantly, when NCOSE decries prostitution, we are condemning prostitution as a system whereby human beings are openly bought and sold for sex, not the persons used and exploited by that system.
 Importantly, when NCOSE decries prostitution, we are condemning prostitution as a system whereby human beings are openly bought and sold for sex, not the persons used and exploited by that system.
How to get SOBs out of your community:
A Primer On Zoning And Licensing Of Sexually Oriented Businesses – Though SOBs have some First Amendment protection, county and town councils can AND SHOULD use zoning and licensing authority to control their negative secondary effects. SOBs can, in fact be regulated in a more stringent fashion than other types of businesses that have no First Amendment protection. (Written by Alliance Defending Freedom)
How To Get Porn Out Of Video Stores – Here is a blueprint for action against the sale and rental of hardcore pornography in your community’s “mainstream” video store(s). (Written by Robert Peters, President Emeritus of Morality In Media)
Studies on SOBs
The purpose of these studies is to inform and alert municipalities regarding the law on sexually oriented businesses and on ordinances that have passed judicial scrutiny.
- Nude Dancing Survey of Laws and Rights
- Manual on Massage Parlor Regulation
- Construction of Open Booth Regulations (back room with contiguous booths for the viewing through a glass of a female in a sexually explicit sexual activity)
- Lap Dancing and Table Dancing Ordinance Preparation
- Swingers Club Case Law Study
- Escort and Outcall Ordinance Preparation
Find a brief explanation of child pornography at the U.S. Department of Justice’s website here.
The United Nations defines human trafficking in Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as:
“the recruitment … by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion,… of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services…”
Report it to your local police and FBI office. Also report it to the Cyber Tipline with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as to the FBI headquarters.