Stop Child Predators (SCP) recognizes that sex offender management and child safety must to be addressed both in the real world and the online world. In 2008, Stop Child Predators launched the Stop Internet Predators (SIP) initiative to specifically focus on protecting children from online offenders.
In January 2017, SCP filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Packingham v. North Carolina, involving legislation (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.5) that prevents registered sex offenders from accessing certain social networking sites. While the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law on the grounds that the language was overly broad, SCP is committed to addressing the concerns of the court in new model legislation that protects children from predators on social networking sites.
SCP is navigating reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a statute that ensures online platforms do not have to bear liability for content shared by third-party users (think Facebook postings). Child safety advocacy groups are rightfully concerned that online platforms like Backpage.com are being used by advertisers to illicit illegal goods and services, especially when it comes to trafficking children. A recent Senate investigation found that “Backpage is involved in 73% of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) receives from the general public (excluding reports by Backpage itself).” Even Backpage executives admit the site is used for criminal activity. But claim they are immune from liability because they are simply the host, and not the generator of content created by others.
The National Association of Attorneys General describes Backpage as a hub of human trafficking and are sympathetic to victims who have been unsuccessful in being awarded damages through the courts because of Section 230.
Most technology companies, however, along with free-speech advocates, consider Section 230 to be necessary for the internet economy to flourish. They too are sympathetic to trafficking victims and work vigorously to remove illegal content from their platforms once they are aware of its existence. However, they argue that shutting down high-profile sites will push advertisements underground making it harder for law enforcement to track, and that if an exception for child exploitation is carved out under Section 230—as noble as the cause may be—legitimate websites will be subjected to a wide range of frivolous lawsuits. They also point out that Congress amended sex trafficking laws two years ago that allows federal agencies to prosecute sites that host ads for sex with children, and therefore, Congress should see how well that law works before making changes to Section 230.
In September of this year, SCP’s president Stacie Rumenap moderated a standing-room only panel on the topic on Capitol Hill. SCP will continue to work to address the valid safety concerns posed by illicit advertisers while simultaneously working to avoid unintended consequences during the process of legislative reform.