The Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus held a briefing on Thursday, July 12, 2012 to educate stakeholders and the general public about the impact of the internet on child sex trafficking. Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA) hosted the briefing that included a panel of leaders in the fight against child sex trafficking. The speakers included, Ernie Allen, the President and CEO from the Nation Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Eliza Reock, Director of Programs from Shared Hope International, Malika Saada Saar, Managing Director for Human Rights for Girls, Cybele Daley, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs at Motion Picture Association of America, Suzanna Tiapula, Director at National District Attorneys Association’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, Dr. Danah Boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, and Brad Russ, Director of the National Criminal Justice Training Center.
Child sex trafficking is a dynamic field and the internet serves as a mask to protect pimps’ identity. Technology is the most prevalent marketing tool used in the child sex trafficking business. Not only are children being trafficked on the internet, but the internet is being used as a recruiting tool by pimps.
Many of the panel members were involved in shutting down Craigslist.com adult advertisement section in 2008 and are now looking to do the same to the part of Backpage.com that, as reported, is now leading the internet in the number of advertisements of children in the sex trafficking business. Malika Saada Saar reported that we need to be “setting an industry standard protecting our children.” The Communication Decency Act protects these websites, such as Backpage.com, from being in any legal violations. S.RES.439/H.RES.646 is currently in the Judiciary Committee; this bill would forbid and eliminate any existing and future “adult entertainment” sections from Backpage.com.
In addition to trying to combat internet sex trafficking, Members of Congress have also introduced H.R. 2730, Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act. The Congressional Foster Youth Caucus is holding a briefing to explore the intersection between child welfare and trafficking next Wednesday, July 18th at the Capitol Visitor’s Center.