July 23, 2013
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Koster today led a bi-partisan 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 key members of Congress, Koster and 46 other state Attorneys General and two from U.S. territories advocated that Congress amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors. Other lead sponsors were the Attorneys General from South Dakota and Washington.
According to Koster, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was drafted when the internet was in its infancy. The original purpose of the Act 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 a local crime. Absent interstate travel, federal property, or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is not a federal crime. While the Communications Decency Act provides criminal authority to the federal government, the Attorneys General believe that criminal jurisdiction needs to be extended to help combat these crimes.
"To keep up with changing technology, federal law needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who promote sexual exploitation," Koster said. "As a former prosecutor, I am familiar with the sad fact that many of those engaged in prostitution are underage and abused."
Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online. Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.
The NAAG letter can be found here: http://ago.mo.gov/NAAG.pdf