Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has joined a bipartisan national coalition of 49 attorneys general calling on Congress to amend the law to help fight prostitution and child sex trafficking.
In a letter to members of Congress on July 24, the coalition advocated that Congress amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors.
According to Fox, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was drafted when the Internet was in its infancy. The original purpose of the law was to protect children from accessing indecent material online, but courts have interpreted certain provisions of the act to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.
Prostitution is not a federal crime unless it involves interstate travel, federal property or a minor. While the Communications Decency Act provides criminal authority to the federal government, the coalition of attorney generals believe that criminal jurisdiction needs to be extended to help combat these crimes.
“Federal law needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who use technology to promote sexual exploitation of children,” Fox said in a statement.
Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online, according to Fox’s office. Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.
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