Lawmakers Target Website Liability for Sex Trafficking Ads

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By Alexis Kramer

Social media sites and other online platforms may be liable for publishing third-party content related to a sex trafficking offense, under a House bill introduced April 3.

Under the bill, by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), websites would be liable for third-party content if they showed reckless disregard that the content would further sex trafficking or was an attempt to commit such an offense. The bill would also allow state authorities to investigate and prosecute operators of websites that allegedly facilitate sex trafficking.

Wagner’s bill would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, a 20-year-old statute that has provided online publishers with broad immunity against liability for the content posted by others. The law has protected websites such as classified ad site Backpage.com LLC from claims that it allegedly enabled sex traffickers to advertise their victims online.

“Congress never intended for Section 230 to give a free pass to the retailers of America’s children, and we must address the judicial interpretation of the law and provide a voice for the most vulnerable in our society,” Wagner said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Full text of the bill at http://src.bna.com/nzH.

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