In a piece published by the Washington Post, Law Professor and former director of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, Mary Leary, argues that Congress hasn’t done enough to stop the sexual trafficking of children by sites like Backpage. One of the main culprits she feels is preventing this is the Communications Decency Act of 1996, or CDA for short. Basically, the CDA grants websites like Backpage immunity from the things that its users post, like ads for children being prostituted. Backpage has been able to fend off several lawsuits claiming that the CDA protects them. For years I’ve been saying that the CDA is archaic since it’s been more than 20 years since the act was instituted. Considering those were the days of dial-up internet on AOL, it’s a joke that the act hasn’t been routinely updated to keep up with current internet trends. Ms. Leary seems to agree…
These companies have been sued by surviving victims throughout the country for facilitating their sex trafficking, and, with one exception, these companies have been able to hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and claim immunity for their actions by claiming that it grants them protection from prosecution for the transactions that they facilitate.
When Congress drafted Section 230 of the CDA in 1996, we lived in a different world: The Internet was still in its infancy, and online commerce had yet to become a major force in American life. Yet as the Internet has developed and the “dark web” has emerged, Congress has failed to amend this provision to respond to these new challenges. As a result, 47 state attorneys general have written Congress to demand the CDA be amended to prevent this. Law enforcement, child advocates, local politicians and victims themselves have begged Congress to make this important change and close down the largest marketplace for the sale of children in the world.
Ms. Leary continues that without amending the CDA, sites like Backpage will continue to pop up no matter how many are shut down. If the CDA is amended to reflect current times it could cut the head off of the proverbial beast, and sites like Backpage would no longer be able to rake in millions off the suffering of woman and children who are peddled on their pages by pimps and traffickers.