Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a bi-partisan national coalition of 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, Kilmartin and colleagues advocated that Congress amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors.
According to Kilmartin, 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.
Absent interstate travel, federal property, or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is not a federal crime; prostitution is generally a local crime. While the Communications Decency Act provides criminal authority to the federal government, Attorney General Kilmartin believes that criminal jurisdiction needs to be extended to help combat these crimes.
"Federal law needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who use technology to promote sexual exploitation of children," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Over the past several years, Rhode Island has strengthened its human trafficking and prostitution laws; however, we remain limited in our ability to go after those who use the Internet to profit from the exploitation of children and other human trafficking victims."
With the explosion and accessibility of the Internet, prostitution solicitations have largely moved online. Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.