Bipartisan Justice Part II

In our last post we referenced the bipartisan support that lead to The U.S. Senate’s condemnation of Backpage and its vocal supports when it voted overwhelmingly in February to close an Internet law loophole that has shielded Backpage from liability when they ran ads for minors being offered as prostitutes.

The law this amends, the Communications Decency Act of 1996, was intended to foster an open Internet free of threats of lawsuits for content some might dislike. Backpage, posting ads linked to numerous cases of sex trafficking, had avoided prosecution and lawsuits by saying it was merely a Web host entitled to the protections of the act.

Until now.

Despite claims to the contrary by police, prosecutors and members of Congress, Backpage had claimed it was not acting in concert with pimps and predators but was simply posting third-party content, the same as Google or most other Web publishers or sites.

The bill, the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act”, which passed the House 97-2 and was signed by the president has ended that protection. Online sex traffickers could face prison, with sentences varying by age of victim and the court venue. Federal sex trafficking law allows sentences up to life in prison.

The new law “will allow us to hold these evil websites” liable for prosecution, Portman said. So far Backpage execs have refused to comment.

To Portman, his bill’s lead co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and numerous supporters of the bill, this made Backpage directly complicit in child sex trafficking.

Blumenthal called the practice “modern-day slavery.” Portman told stories on the Senate floor of girls who were abducted or had run away from home and found themselves marketed as prostitutes on Backpage’s local websites. Some pimps moved their victims from city to city.

Said Sen. Porter:

This is evil, and this has been happening. And we’ve heard the stories, I talked about Yvonne Ambrose. We talked about Kubiiki Pride. We talked about Nicole S. We talked about some of these mothers and their daughters who have gone through this horrific situation. You heard earlier about Desiree. This was the 16-year-old who was being sold on Backpage, and on Christmas Eve she was murdered.

Imagine getting that call as a parent.

Tony Ortega lied when he came out with the following official statement in defense of his bosses at Backpage:

The whole point of Backpage.com is that we arent involved after two consenting adults find each other through the community bulletin board, which exists solely so that people can freely express themselves.

 

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