July 24, 2013

Attorney General Kane to Congress: help local prosecutors fight prostitution and child sex trafficking

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today joined a bipartisan national coalition of 49 Attorneys General calling on Congress to amend the law to help fight prostitution and child sex trafficking.  In a letter  to key members of Congress, the Attorneys General recommended that Congress amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was drafted when the internet was in its infancy.  The original purpose of the law was to protect children from accessing indecent material online. However, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the Act to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites-- such as Backpage.com-- that promote and profit from human trafficking. 

Unless it involves interstate travel, federal property, or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is considered a local crime, not federal. While the Communications Decency Act provides criminal authority to the federal government, the Attorneys General believe that criminal jurisdiction needs to be extended to help combat these crimes. 

"Federal law needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who use technology to promote sexual exploitation of children," Kane said. 

Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online.  Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue. 

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