The Mississippi Attorney General announced Wednesday that he will join 49 other state and territorial attorneys to urge Congress to fight sex trafficking.
In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask Members to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which was designed to encourage the growth of the internet by promoting free expression, particularly on online message boards. However, while the bill intended to allow companies who sponsor message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts, the bill instead opens the door for corporations to make money off of dangerous posts through advertisements without an obligation to remove the content. According to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the CDA to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as backpage.com, which promote and profit from human trafficking.
“I’m asking Congress to remove any language that grants immunity to huge international corporations like backpage.com, for the sake of protecting the millions of people who are harmed and taken advantage of by these sites,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “While the immunity granted through this bill had good intentions, this site and many other corporations, such as Google, began to make money off of advertising on these boards and refused to prevent their boards from being used illegally for crimes such as child prostitution, child pornography, sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs, stolen intellectual property, and more. This abuse of the immunity provision must be changed to make corporations put public safety over corporate profits.”
According to Hood, the letter to Congress seeks an amendment to clarify that states, localities, and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online. The simple word addition to the CDA proposed in this letter will help to ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts.
In addition to Mississippi, the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
To view the letter, click here.