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Wagner Applauds FBI’s Child Sex Trafficking Crackdown, Calls On Congress to Amend the CDA

Oct 19, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – This week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), announced the recovery of 84 minors and the arrests of 120 traffickers as part of Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 12-15, 2017. Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02) released the following statement applauding the FBI’s crackdown and calling on Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA):

“This month, 84 children were saved from a life of terror. And while I applaud the FBI’s efforts in the fight against trafficking, online sex trafficking continues practically unabated. This is largely because the methods of recruitment and sale of sex trafficking victims have evolved with technology—but our laws have remained static. Research shows that underage victims are increasingly likely to first meet their trafficker online, and the majority of underage victims have also been advertised or sold online. Congress must amend Section 230 of the CDA to clarify that sex trafficking is not protected by Section 230’s immunity provisions. It is time to protect the women and children being sold into sex slavery instead of websites that trafficked them.”


In April, Congresswoman Wagner introduced the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation has already been co-sponsored by over 161 members of the House and would lift barriers that have prevented the federal government, states, and victims of sex trafficking from pursuing justice against America’s modern-day slave markets.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 has been wrongly interpreted to shield websites that participate in sex trafficking from any criminal liability. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has said that it is Congress’ role to clarify the intersection between Section 230 and sex trafficking laws. This legislation would provide that urgently needed clarification while safeguarding the freedom of the Internet.

As the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found in Backpage.com, LLC, vs. Loretta Lynch in 2016, “there is no doubt” that online advertisements that promote sex trafficking are “not afforded First Amendment protection.” This legislation would make clear that Congress never intended Section 230 to create a lawless internet where bad actors can engage in criminal activity online that they cannot engage in offline. This is already obvious to our state authorities: Earlier this year, 50 State Attorneys General called on Congress to amend the CDA to restore jurisdiction to state authorities who are tasked with protecting America’s children.

The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 would:

1)    Amend Section 230 to allow state authorities to investigate and prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking using state criminal statutes that prohibit sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children.

2)    Amend Section 230 to allow victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children to exercise civil remedies, such as the private right of action available to sex trafficking victims in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

3)    Amend 18 U.S.C. § 1591, the sex trafficking statute, to define “participation in a venture” in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s 2016 decision in Jane Doe vs. Backpage.com, LLC.

4)    Amend 18 U.S.C. § 1591 to clarify that it is unlawful for a provider of an interactive computer service to publish information provided by an information content provider, with reckless disregard that the information is in furtherance of a sex trafficking offense.