Repealing This Law Won't Stop Human Trafficking

In this April 20, 2017, photo, a member of the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-human Trafficking division displays bondage cuffs used for sexual acts during a raid at the home of suspected child webcam cybersex operator, David Timothy Deakin, from Peoria, Ill., in Mabalacat, Philippines. Deakin's arrest reveals one of the darkest corners of the internet, where pedophiles in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia pay facilitators on the other side of the world to sexually abuse children, directing their moves through online livestreaming services. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Human trafficking, particularly for sex crimes or of children, is a terrible crime. It’s natural to seek more ways to fight it, but blaming various Internet companies won’t stop it. A bad law won’t stop a bad crime.

The law that folks want to repeal is in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA):

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

The premise of the proposed change is that we need to hold various Internet companies responsible for human traffickers coming on and using their services. Craig’s List and Backpage have ended their “adult services” sections in order to get away from human traffickers, so now folks want to make it illegal to run websites that might be used by human traffickers.

However even supporters of the change admit that these people will just move on to the next site, every time one shuts down. Said the Indiana Attorney General’s office in 2013:

In response to this criticism, as well as years of pressure, Craigslist shut down its ‘Adult Services’ listings in September 2010. Unfortunately, when Craigslist’s ‘Adult Services’ section disappeared, Backpage’s ‘Adult Escorts’ section proliferated.

Backpage shut it down as well since that was written. And guess what? The problem didn’t go away. Eventually they’ll just move to offshore websites beyond US control, and then what do we do?

The problem isn’t the CDA. The problem is human traffickers, some of whom use the lure of Amnesty to bring people in illegally from foreign countries into the United States. Fight the traffickers, not the Internet companies that are just easier targets.

Police work is hard. Changing the CDA would just give them an easy out by attacking people who actually have nothing to do with human trafficking, people who have no contact with the victims or perpetrators. And then, at the end of the day, the victimization will continue unabated.

Changing the CDA is an idea rooted in good intentions but will have no good consequences. Leave the law alone. Instead let’s just enforce the laws already on the books!