Bipartisan group of 50 AGs seeks change in federal law to allow state and local prosecutors to investigate and prosecute online promoters of child sex trafficking
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a bipartisan coalition of 49 other state Attorneys General are asking Congress to amend federal law to make clear that state and local prosecutors have the authority to investigate and prosecute child sex traffickers, including those operating online.
In a letter to Congress, the Attorneys General asked for a change in the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to clarify that states and localities have the authority to prosecute companies that profit from the online promotion of child sex trafficking. Some court rulings have interpreted the CDA to allow online companies that profit from child sex trafficking to escape the reach of state and local law enforcement.
Classified online ad companies like Backpage.com have been linked to the promotion of child sex trafficking and violence. In Pennsylvania, the Office of Attorney General actively pursues sexual predators who frequently seek out their potential victims on online apps, and the change in federal law sought by the Attorneys General would assist these law enforcement efforts.
“We are requesting a simple change in the law to ensure we can protect children in our Commonwealth and throughout the country from online sex trafficking,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Federal enforcement alone is not enough to stop the growth in online child sex trafficking. We need clear authority to investigate and prosecute anyone and any company that promotes these horrible crimes.”
As stated in the letter, the intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never intended to allow facilitators of child sex trafficking to remain outside the parameters of state and local law enforcement.
“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 the letter to House and Senate leaders on committees that regulate communications and technology.
In addition to Attorney General Shapiro, 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, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.