OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter joined a bi-partisan coalition of 49 attorneys general urging Congress to affirm that all law-enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking.
In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to clarify that states, localities and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online through websites like Backpage.com.
“Sex trafficking is a horrific crime that often preys upon the most vulnerable citizens,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Amending the CDA gives courts clarity and expands the ability of all law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute those who participate in the sex trade. Anything we can do to stop this heinous act needs to be a priority.”
The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, according to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children.
In part, the letter reads – “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 clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes.”
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, that promote and profit from human trafficking.
“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote.
In addition to Oklahoma, the following states and territories signed the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, 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.