Wagner Responds to Monstrous Backpage.com Revelation, Calls On Congress To Act

Jul 11, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, in light of The Washington Post’s monstrous revelation that Backpage.com has employed a contractor to aggressively solicit and create illegal sex ads, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) called on the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately take up her bipartisan Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.

“Congress must act immediately to hold sex trafficking advertisers like Backpage.com accountable and bring the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act up for a vote,said Rep. Ann Wagner. “Everyone knows that Backpage.com is selling innocent women and children into sex slavery, yet we allow them to hide behind the false shield of a misinterpreted law. We cannot claim to be anti-trafficking advocates, then close our eyes and give a free pass to the websites that sell our children. Congressional inaction, and the internet industry’s defense of Backpage.com, are complicit in these horrible crimes.”

Congresswoman Wagner’s legislation is the only bill introduced in Congress that would finally hold Backpage.com responsible for its horrific modern-day slave market and give victims across America access to justice for the crimes committed against them. The House will bring three human trafficking bills to the floor this week, but has not moved forward the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. A number of internet companies oppose the bill and continue to protect Backpage.com from the consequences of its unconscionable actions. Meanwhile, Backpage.com has been allowed to continue selling sex trafficking victims in the United States with impunity.

Backpage.com and other online slave markets can sell America’s children over and over again because courts have misinterpreted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to shield websites from criminal liability for the sex trafficking advertisements that they facilitate. But Section 230, passed over 20 years ago—when the internet as we know it was still in formation—was never intended to create a lawless internet where people can commit sex crimes online that they cannot commit offline. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit made clear last year, legislation must be the remedy to any conflict between Section 230 and America’s sex trafficking laws.

The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act has the support of 29 bipartisan cosponsors, including Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ed Royce (R-CA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Martha Roby (R-AL), and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS). Full details on the bill are available here