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AG Hood joins other attorneys general asking Congress to amend sex trafficking law

Courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc

Attorney General Jim Hood joined 49 other state and territorial attorneys general in a bi-partisan coalition urging Congress to affirm that all law-enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking, including online.

In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask Members to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which was designed to encourage the growth of the internet by promoting free expression, particularly on online message boards. However, while the bill intended to allow companies who sponsor message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts, the bill instead opens the door for corporations to make money off of dangerous posts through advertisements without an obligation to remove the content. According to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the CDA to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as, which promote and profit from human trafficking.

“I’m asking Congress to remove any language that grants immunity to huge international corporations like, for the sake of protecting the millions of people who are harmed and taken advantage of by these sites,” said General Hood. “While the immunity granted through this bill had good intentions, this site and many other corporations, such as Google, began to make money off of advertising on these boards and refused to prevent their boards from being used illegally for crimes such as child prostitution, child pornography, sale of illegal and counterfeit drugs, stolen intellectual property, and more. This abuse of the immunity provision must be changed to make corporations put public safety over corporate profits.”

The letter to Congress seeks an amendment to clarify that states, localities, and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online. The simple word addition to the CDA proposed in this letter will help to ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts.

“These corporations are conducting criminal activity as a business and hiding behind this law,” explained General Hood. “A clear example is that a newspaper running a classified ad in their printed edition of their paper advertising child prostitution could be charged with a crime; whereas, the same ad online would not be subject to prosecution, even if it could be proven that the news organization was aware of the illegal activity being advertised. It is unfortunate that the CEOs of some of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world have placed profits over being good corporate citizens.”

To view the letter, click here.

In addition to Mississippi, the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Information provided by the Office of Attorney General Jim Hood.

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