Partnering with law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP to end online violence against women and children.
Sex trafficking of women and children online is a global crime that is on the rise. Children who are homeless, abused or neglected are among the most vulnerable. They are targeted by predators who force them either into releasing sexual images of themselves, or selling their services in the adult section of online bulletin boards.
Over the last five years, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has witnessed a 98 per cent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking. Nearly three quarters of these have a link to Backpage.com, a US marketplace website offering everything from clothes to furniture. Sites such as these operate globally and make millions of dollars every year by allowing users to post ads that sell women and children for sex. According to a United States Senate report, Backpage.com made $36 million from its ‘adult services’ listings between June 2012 and May 2013 alone. Core to countering this growing underworld is a federal law called the Communications Decency Act, initially set up to protect children from harmful material in 1996.
Interpretations of certain sections of this Act are currently being used as a defence by those wishing to propagate the business of online sex trafficking. Meanwhile the exploited and abused victims lack the resources to counteract this and protect their own rights.
Legal Momentum has partnered with law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP – which has offered to work on a pro bono basis – as well as service providers, survivors, law enforcement officials, and documentary film maker and social entrepreneur Mary Mazzio. The goal of the action is to end online violence against women and children by:
- Shutting down the adult services section of online bulletin boards by pursuing litigation across the United States.
- Partnering with the tech community to develop a global task force to establish metrics for online safety, and to create a ‘ratings system’ that rates how other tech companies perform against this.
- Engaging the media to promote public awareness of the problem and create a social movement to increase pressure on policy-makers and business leaders to put an end to online violence against women and children
What help is needed
- Financial donors – to help fund legal reform efforts in Washington DC and in the courts.
- Lobbyists – to create a social justice movement to educate and advocate against online violence against women.
- Private sector engagement – to endorse a corporate responsibility expectation ensuring technology companies are free of connections to the online sale of children’s sexual services.
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