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AG Derek Schmidt asks Congress to reaffirm states’ ability to fight online human trafficking

Release Date: Aug 16, 2017

TOPEKA – (August 16, 2017) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today joined in asking the U.S. Congress to reaffirm states’ ability to use all of their traditional investigative and prosecutorial authority to combat human trafficking facilitated online.

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Schmidt, along with the attorneys general of 49 other states and territories, asked that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) be amended to make clear that state, territorial, and local authorities retain their traditional jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those who facilitate illicit acts, including human trafficking. In recent years, some judges have broadly interpreted the CDA to preempt state and local authority in this area.

At issue are websites, such as Backpage.com, that are known to facilitate and profit from illegal activities advertised through their site.

“Certain interpretations of the CDA have resulted in companies like Backpage.com remaining outside the reach of state and local law enforcement,” the attorneys general wrote. “We do not believe that was Congress’s intent in passing the CDA, and we do not believe that is Congress’s intent now. 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.”

Schmidt and other attorneys general have repeatedly asked Backpage for information about its content review and screening policies and procedures. They have also previously asked Congress to amend the CDA in 2013.

A copy of the letter is available at http://bit.ly/2i7Lskq.

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