Research indicates that many of these trafficked children are particularly vulnerable to
manipulation by traffickers due to their compromised life circumstances, such as prior sex abuse
or homelessness. In fact, one report found that youth who run away from home are recruited by a
pimp within forty-eight hours of their departure. 9 A Chicago, Illinois report found that “the most
significant predictor of entry into prostitution is running away or being homeless as a youth,
particularly if that homeless experience occurs prior to the age of sixteen years.” 10 Researchers
have determined that adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and the trauma that accompanies
these experiences, correlate strongly with the vulnerability of the child to being trafficked. 11
Even more concerning, sex trafficking cases often involve tremendous violence. For
example, in one recent case, a trafficker beat the victim, forced her naked into a cold shower,
covered her with ice, and then made her stand in front of an air conditioner for thirty minutes. 12
In another recent scenario, a trafficker transported a victim from one city to another and stopped
multiple times along the way to beat her. 13 The beatings were so violent that the victim died from
her injuries. 14
Law enforcement cannot prevent this horrific abuse, in large part because the
proliferation of human trafficking on the Internet is enabled by a federal law called the
Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). 15 This law, while intended to facilitate the development
of Internet Service Providers, (“ISPs”) 16 has had the unfortunate side effect of rendering law
enforcement ineffective at identifying and interdicting ads and solicitations for illicit sex. State
Attorneys General have long recognized this critical problem and have sought to protect human
trafficking victims, but now find that the CDA has stymied their efforts. This article examines
the issue of Internet facilitation of sex trafficking of children and outlines four legislative
proposals to protect victims and prevent this horrific crime. These legislative proposals offer
practical solutions to the roadblock that the CDA has placed in the path of effective law
enforcement interdiction of the trafficking of children on the Internet.
9 Mark Clayton, Sex Trade Lures Kids from Burbs, CHRISTIAN SCI. MONITOR (Aug. 30, 1996),
http://www.csmonitor.com/1996/0830/083096.intl.intl.1.html; THE HOFSTEDE COMMITTEE REPORT: JUVENILE PROSTITUTION IN
MINNESOTA 6 (1999), http://www.heart-intl.net/HEART/080105/JuvenileProstitutionMinn.pdf.
10 LARA JANSON, ET AL., “OUR GREAT HOBBY” AN ANALYSIS OF ONLINE NETWORKS FOR BUYERS OF SEX IN ILLINOIS 54 (2013),
http://g.virbcdn.com/_f2/files/22/FileItem-276524-Final Web_OurGreatHobby.pdf (citing TODD STROGER, THE COOK CNTY. COMM’N
ON WOMEN’S ISSUES, THE REALITIES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN COOK COUNTY: STRATEGIES FOR ENDING THE EXPLOITATION OF
WOMEN AND GIRLS, PUBLIC HEARING REPORT 5 (2007)).
11 Jim Mercy, Div. of Violence Prevention, Nat’l Ctr. for Injury Prevention & Control, PowerPoint Presentation at Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health Symposium: The Public Health Implications of Child Sex Trafficking (May 1-2, 2013).
12 Id. In another case, on August 3, 2011, Demetrius Homer, of Atlanta, was sentenced on charges of sex trafficking of a minor. Press
Release, Fed. Bureau of Invest., Atlanta Div., Atlanta Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking of Minors, Demetrius Homer Advertised
Juveniles on Backpage.com (Aug. 3, 2011), http://www.fbi.gov/atlanta/press-releases/2011/atlanta-man-sentenced-for-sex-trafficking-
of-minors. One of Homer’s victims was a fourteen-year-old girl whom he recruited first through romance and then violence, hitting
her, threatening her with a knife, and shocking her with a taser in front of another juvenile victim. Id. He advertised the juvenile for
commercial sex on Backpage.com. Id.
13 Madeline Buckley, Local Man Charged with Sex Trafficking, SOUTHBENDTRIBUNE.COM (May 6, 2013),
15 47 U.S.C.A. § 230 (West 2013).
16 Id.; The term “Internet Service Providers” is not defined in the Communications Decency Act. See id. The statute uses the term
“provider of interactive computer service.” Id. However, courts have labeled entities such as Backpage.com, Craigslist, and other
providers of interactive computer services by name different names, including, but not limited to: Internet Service Providers, web-based service providers, online service providers, service providers, and interactive computer service providers. See, e.g., Doe v.
MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413 (5th Cir. 2008); Chi. Lawyers’ Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist, Inc., 519 F.3d 666,
668 (7th Cir. 2008); see infra Section V. For the sake of consistency with case law, this article will hereinafter refer to such entities as
Internet Service Providers (ISPs).