Attorney General Fox Urges Congressional Support of Legislation to Prevent Online Sex Trafficking of Youth
Today, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox urged members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to support legislation that would help prevent children from being trafficked on the internet.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating about $150 billion each year. Shockingly, there are numerous cases nationally of children being used in prostitution as young as 12. The FBI estimates that nearly 300,000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
“As much as Montana might still seem like a state immune from many of the public safety issues we hear about on the news, human trafficking reaches into our communities due in large part to the internet,” Attorney General Fox said. “Just last week, we announced that agents with our Division of Criminal Investigation arrested two men in Glendive for attempting to have sex with children. Their arrests were the result of an internet sting operation. The SAVE Act would be a step in the right direction in ensuring our children are not bought and sold like commodities.”
Montana and 52 other states and territories have asked members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to support the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE) Act (S. 2536), which would provide more oversight of websites that facilitate “adult services,” such as Backpage.com. Their letter is available to read or download here.
Attorney General Fox said federal courts have recognized that the internet has become a favored means for advertising the availability of children for sex. Internet ads can be purchased in multiple locations with the click of a button. This allows human traffickers to maximize their profit and evade detection by moving victims quickly to lucrative venues where there is significant demand for commercial sex. He said organized crime groups and street gangs use the Internet to sell their victims as well, which is why passage of the SAVE Act is particularly critical.
The use of the “adult services sections” on websites such as Backpage.com has created virtual brothels where children are bought and sold using euphemistic labels such as “escorts.” The SAVE Act would require these websites that are facilitating trafficking through their very business model to take steps to verify the identity of individuals posting advertisements and the age of those who appear in these advertisements.
In one week this past June, law enforcement arrested 281 alleged sex traffickers and took 168 children out of prostitution in a nationwide FBI crackdown where many child victims were offered for sale on “escort” and other “adult services” websites.
This spring, seven people were arrested in Missoula on felony child sex abuse charges. Their arrests were the result of a two-day sting, in which members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and several law enforcement agencies posted ads on Craigslist and BackPage.com, posing as an adult female willing to prostitute a 12-year-old female relative.
Preventing kids from being trafficked on the Internet has been a long-term interest of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). NAAG has taken several actions regarding Backpage.com and similar websites, including requesting that these exploitive websites shut down their “adult services” sections which fuel the online trafficking of youth.
The states and territories that signed today’s letter are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.