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50 State Attorney Generals Renew Challenge to Congress to Strengthen Human Trafficking Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 16, 2017     
CONTACT:  Sara Rabern (605) 773-3215   

PIERRE, S.D. –  Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today the he has joined 50 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. In a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) 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.

"For too many years despite pleas from our State Attorneys General, Congress has looked the other way while companies like Backpage.com advertise for sale young women and children,” said Jackley. “In South Dakota alone our law enforcement operations have arrested over 50 individuals for human trafficking related charges since the Attorney Generals sent the first letter requesting congressional action."

The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, 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 Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.

“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,” the attorneys general wrote. 

In 2013, Attorney General Jackley and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson authorized the request of 49 Attorneys General for congressional action to address Backpage.com and other companies for human trafficking young women and children.

South Dakota remains a leader in the fight against sex crimes against children. In February 2017, Attorney General Jackley and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring launched Campaign for Child Rescue. This national project helps develop and deploy technologies donated by several industry partners. The technologies being adopted will allow investigators to reduce their exposure to video and photos of children being sexually assaulted by 70 percent or more, enabling them to focus instead on children still awaiting rescue.

CDA Final Letter

In addition to Florida and the District of Columbia the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, 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.

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