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Attorney General aims to close online sex-trafficking loophole

By Katie Ritchie

 

Online sex-traffickers have been hiding behind a loophole in a South Carolina law.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and 46 other state attorneys general want Congress to protect you from online crime.

The AGs hope to address a misinterpretation in the 1996 Communication Decency Act (CDA).

Some courts have allowed individuals who knowingly profit from illegal activities to flourish. Sex traffickers, black market opioid sellers, and identity thieves have found a home online.

The act, designed to promote free expression online, was enacted to help the internet grow.

The CDA was meant to protect companies who sponsored message boards. Those sponsors wanted protection if a member posted something inappropriate or illegal.

As the internet expanded, the law did not keep up. Misinterpretation by federal courts of Section 230, which protects web hosts from user-posted content, has caused problems.

The AGs want to make sure those criminals and those who harbor and aid them can be prosecuted. The “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” and “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” FOSTA-SESTA, was signed into law in 2018.

The acts made it clear Section 230 of the CDA does not grant immunity to sex traffickers acting online. That was the start.

Now the AGs want to allow states to protect their citizens from all online criminals.

“Just because an illegal activity is happening online doesn’t mean states shouldn’t be allowed to go after these criminals,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

If Congress amends the CDA and closes the loophole, state and local law enforcement will be better able to respond to cybercriminals and those who aid them.