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Backpage, and other such websites, have for years facilitated child sex trafficking by allowing ads selling children for sex to be posted on their sites. In fact, a Senate investigation found that Backpage actively facilitated child sex trafficking by recruiting pimps and helping write their ads.

Although Backpage no longer advertises children for sex, law enforcement agencies, anti-trafficking advocates, and survivors want to hold the operators of Backpage responsible through civil lawsuits. But courts have ruled repeatedly that a provision in current U.S. law – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – means Backpage and other companies can’t be held liable for their part in the sexual exploitation of children.

Though the law was designed to protect Internet freedom, nobody intended for it to be used to defend those promoting child sexual abuse. Bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693), would eliminate the provision that shields operators of websites from being held liable for knowingly allowing or promoting human trafficking. It would also allow state prosecutors — not just federal law enforcement — to take action against individuals and businesses that use websites to violate federal human trafficking laws.

At UNICEF USA, we are defenders of child rights, and we understand that free speech and access to a free and open Internet are very important for children and young people. But we also recognize our responsibility to protect children from violence, exploitation, and abuse. We agree with CoStar CEO Andy Florance’s comment about Internet freedom: “…when we see those driven by greed take advantage of that freedom by facilitating underage sex trafficking, we cannot be silent.” Preeminent anti-trafficking and law enforcement organizations believe that this legislation is necessary to help protect children.

Please join us by urging your federal legislators to cosponsor this important legislation!

Take Action Now

Contact your Senators and urge them to support legislation to hold website operators accountable for promoting child sex abuse (S. 1693). 



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Letter to Congress

Subject: Please cosponsor legislation that fights online child sex trafficking

Dear Member of Congress:

I am writing to ask you to protect children by cosponsoring legislation that fights online child sex trafficking.

Some “interactive computer service providers,” such as Backpage, have knowingly promoted and facilitated child sex trafficking and abuse through online ads, with no legal repercussions. Multiple courts have ruled that operators of Backpage and other such sites cannot be held liable for the actions of their users due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – even when the operators knew or participated in child sex advertising.

Bipartisan legislators want to close that loophole. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S. 1693) would help hold operators who knowingly facilitate child exploitation accountable, while protecting those who work to ensure child safety online. This bill gives human trafficking survivors the ability to seek the justice they deserve.

I strongly urge you to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation, and advocate for its immediate passage. Together, we can ensure that every child has the chance to live a life free from exploitation.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.

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