Hold Websites Accountable for Aiding and Abetting Human Trafficking
Did you know that when websites profit from the illegal activity of human trafficking, they are not held accountable? In the event that a company profits from the sale of victims of trafficking (including minors), they can use Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a defense. Section 230 provides websites with blanket immunity from “third party content”. This was designed to protect websites from being prosecuted when someone visiting their site posts inappropriate or even illegal content without the site’s knowledge or approval. It was NOT designed to grant immunity when a website actively PROFITS from third party content.
Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now is one of several anti-trafficking organizations that are seeking a change to the CDA. In order to stop human trafficking, we must take action to make access to this crime more difficult. Section 230 had good intentions, but it has been used to protect various companies that profit from advertising sex trafficking of women and children. If websites profit from crimes such as human trafficking, they should be held accountable.
We must urge lawmakers to amend the Communications Decency Act if we want to see a decrease in trafficking and exploitation in the US. Join us in asking Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act so that
1. State and local law enforcement agencies have the authority to arrest and prosecute websites that advertise human trafficking victims and
2. The protections that websites currently enjoy from being held liable for third party content when they profit from that content is eliminated.
Thank you in advance for your time and for your dedication to your constituents.
Amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography. The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties. Thus if pornography or other illicit material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.
Section 230 was well-intentioned, but it has been used by companies like Backpage, which uses its site as a place to advertise illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children. Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites.
Business owners claim that illegal activity on their websites is not their responsibility because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Businesses are using ignorance as an excuse so that they can claim they had no role in either prostitution or human trafficking. In order to stop human trafficking, we must take action to make access to this crime more difficult. The ISPs will do nothing to help modern day slaves as long as they believe that they are not an accessory to the crime because they have no liability or legal responsibility. However, if they knowingly profit from crimes such as human trafficking they are in fact aiding and abetting those crimes. Section 230 needs to be amended—not so that free speech is tarnished or diminished in any way, but so that people who are being used and sold can have a voice separate from their abusers.
We urge you to amend the CDA in order to protect the people whose first amendment right is merely one right being taken away.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (http://endsexualexploitation.org/ is able to help you learn more about these issues and aid you in your efforts in this endeavor.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and for your efforts in the fight for freedom.
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