Attorney General Becerra Urges Congress to Amend Communications Decency Act, Empower Law Enforcement to Act Against Sex Trafficking

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO — This month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with 49 fellow Attorneys General, urged Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) and make clear the authority of state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute companies that profit from sex trafficking and crimes against children. Attorney General Becerra has aggressively targeted sex traffickers, including criminally prosecuting the owners of the website Backpage.com. While a recent court ruling allows the Attorney General to move forward against the defendants for 25 felony counts of conspiracy and money laundering, the court dismissed pimping charges based on the CDA.

“It is unconscionable to think that there are criminals who prey on vulnerable children and profit from sex trafficking without fully facing the consequences of their crimes,” said Attorney General Becerra. “I’m urging Congress to support our local and state law enforcement agencies in their efforts to protect children from exploitation by amending the CDA and removing any ambiguity from a federal law that has been invoked to protect those who promote, facilitate and benefit from sex trafficking.”

The CDA has been broadly interpreted by some courts to render state and local authorities unable to prosecute individuals or companies that actively and criminally profit from the promotion and facilitation of sex trafficking and crimes against children. The internet plays a significant role in sex trafficking, as it has created virtual brothels where victims are bought and sold.  In the letter, the Attorneys General emphasize that state and local law enforcement are on the front lines in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children, and that these agencies must have the clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other serious crimes.

The letter was sent to Senators Roger Wicker and Brian Schatz and Congressmembers Marsha Blackburn and Michael Doyle, the Chairs and Ranking Members of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet and House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. A copy of the letter is attached to the electronic version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

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PDF icon CDA Final Letter.pdf691.91 KB