Hold Websites Accountable for Aiding and Abetting Human Trafficking

Hold Websites Accountable for Aiding and Abetting Human Trafficking

There are people all around, the mall is buzzing with shoppers all looking for different things–candles, soaps, clothes, lamps, humans. From one of the shops a man yells, “Only here for tonight! Barely legal.” A woman proclaims, “Back by popular demand. You asked for her!”

Okay, so maybe this does not happen at malls. Selling people doesn’t happen in the open, right? But it does–people are advertised and sold in public forums every day. More than that, companies in charge of these specific forums are aware that human trafficking is taking place and they do nothing to stop these crimes from happening. In fact, they choose to enable the criminal activity.

The forum in question–is the internet. One reason businesses do not take action against human trafficking is that they are making a profit from the crime. Another reason is because they will not be held liable for the crimes of others–even though they know it is happening.

Companies make money from online ads for human trafficking and they are not held responsible for making sure these ads are stopped due to 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.  Therefore, if illegal pornography or other material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.  (This makes sense, UNLESS the site is accepting money for posting the content. In that case, they should certainly be held responsible.)

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal,  or otherwise tortious  content found on the  Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties . . . The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well-intentioned, but it has been used by companies to defend its “right” to accept payment for advertising 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. (Even if the site profits from the third party content, as in the case of advertising.)  It is estimated that backpage alone makes approximately $3 million per month on ads for prostituted and trafficked women and children (Lee, 2014).

We cannot allow companies to get away with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking simply because they stand behind the excuses provided by this law. They make millions of dollars (backpage made $39 million by facilitating prostitution with adult ads June 2012-May 2013) off of the sexual exploitation of women and children. This cannot continue in the United States of America.

Call on Congress to amend the CDA in order to protect the people whose first amendment right is merely one right being taken away. If we would not allow it in our malls or other public places, we should not allow it on the web. The National Association of Attorneys General has shown their support of Congress amending section 230 of the CDA in order to prevent trafficking of children since July of 2013. They suggested that the wording of Section 230 be altered so that State and local law enforcement agencies have the authority to arrest and prosecute companies who accept money to advertise human trafficking victims on websites.

We have to start taking responsibility and acting to end human trafficking. No more “I didn’t know.” No more “choosing not to see.” No more human trafficking.

If you support the proposal for the CDA to be amended, please follow the link below to sign our petition. In addition, please share the link for the petition/and or this post to help raise awareness and demand the eradication of human trafficking. Thank you for your time, consideration, and for your efforts in the fight for freedom.


Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“One person can make a difference. In fact, it’s not only possible for one person to make a difference, it’s essential that one person makes a difference. And believe it or not, that person is you.” ―Bob Riley

*This post is not calling for the dismantlement of any particular website. It is not encouraging the restriction of rights for anyone. This post is, however, arguing for businesses, who are profiting from crime and exploitation of people, to be held liable when they have been made aware of the issue on their pages and continue to do nothing to stop it.

Check out this video clip of Rep. Ann Wagner talking about enforcement of  JVTA and implementing SAVE. https://www.facebook.com/RepAnnWagner/videos/832005393602803


Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Lee, Patrick G. “Backpage.com Accused of Helping Pimps in Child Sex Trade.” BloomburgBusiness. n.p., 16 Oct. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.


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