PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that South Dakota has joined 20 other State Attorneys General in an amicus or “friend of the court” brief, challenging a decision granting Backpage.com broad protection from civil liability even when it took active steps to promote sex trafficking of children. Data reveals that these children exploited through sex trafficking are typically given a quota by their trafficker of 10-15 buyers a night, and sold up to 45 times a day during high demand sports events and conventions.
“The internet continues to be the primary method of advertising for sex trafficking and South Dakota is not immune from these types of ads. It is an uphill battle when sources like Backpage.com actively promote and refuse to cooperate in the prevention of child sex trafficking. Companies selling ads for profit should not have immunity for their role in harming children,” said Jackley.
The brief was filed in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 & Jane Doe 3 v. Backpage.com. The brief argues that the Communications Decency Act does not protect a website operator from liability when it creates content that actively promotes sex trafficking of children by encouraging use of language that will attract customers seeking children for sex. The brief argues that Backpage.com uses language to encourage payment methods that make financial transactions with the traffickers’ untraceable, strips metadata to impair law enforcement’s ability to locate victims, and deletes “string ads” posted by law enforcement.
In 2011, Attorney General Jackley co-authored with Democratic Attorneys General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Chris Koster of Missouri, a letter to Backpage.com signed by 45 Attorneys General. The letter outlined a series of requests and specifically asked them to describe how they intend to stop the exploitation of minors. The goal for the Attorneys General with this letter was to find cooperation from Backpage.com to protect children from being sold with the removal of the adult services advertisement. Backpage.com has not cooperated with the Attorneys General.
The South Dakota Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit and their law enforcement partners from across the state continue to battle sex trafficking with law enforcement operations targeting sex traffickers. Since 2013, 9 operations have been implemented statewide resulting in 39 arrests of those individuals soliciting minors for sex.