September 19, 2017 | Article

Working Together to Combat Sex Trafficking

Today, Internet Association will testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on an critical issue to our nation: the effort to combat sex trafficking.

Internet Association member companies are 100 percent committed to the fight against sex trafficking. Criminal actors like Backpage.com must be fully and quickly brought to justice for their horrific crimes.

IA supports the goals of Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (S. 1693). The internet industry is actively working with the Senate on amendments that will ensure justice while also allowing the good actors IA represents to continue their efforts with law enforcement and NGOs to stop sex trafficking online. This can include targeted amendments to SESTA that allow victims to seek justice against perpetrators and bad actors that knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

Legitimate internet companies are partners in the fight to combat sex trafficking. Technology is part of the solution to this problem, and our members have a long track record of working with law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and victims to stop illegal activity. Some examples of how we work together are provided in our testimony, and represent only a small snapshot of our companies’ work, which includes:

  • Robust community guidelines, internal policies, and proactive enforcement practices to remove content that promotes sex trafficking;
  • Working with law enforcement in all 50 states to actively take down illegal content and bring offenders to justice; and
  • Partnering with non-governmental organizations to help combat sex trafficking.

These efforts harness both significant financial resources from IA members and their engineering talent to help develop technological tools used to combat this heinous crime. For instance, the Spotlight tool developed by Thorn with support from several IA member companies. Spotlight is a web-based application used to detect and help rescue victims of sex trafficking. Today, Spotlight is used by 4,000 law enforcement officers at over 700 agencies nationwide. More importantly, it has been used to identify over 2,000 perpetrators of sex trafficking.

The internet industry remains committed to the fight to end human trafficking. We do not have to choose between justice against Backpage.com and protecting legitimate online services. This is not a binary choice.

There is also no single solution to this terrible problem. The fight against trafficking requires a multipronged approach and a committed partnership between the government and private sector to succeed. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to improve SESTA to ensure victims get justice and we can ensure there are no future victims.

 

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