Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers today joined a bi-partisan national coalition of 49 state and territorial 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 advocated 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 Act 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.
“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,” Suthers said.
Prostitution is a local crime. Absent interstate travel, federal property, or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is not a federal crime. 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. Prostitution solicitations have largely moved online with Backpage.com, for example, now generating an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.
The letter’s lead sponsors were attorneys general from the states of Missouri, South Dakota and Washington. A copy of the letter is attached and may also be found online.