AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – South Carolina lawmakers are hoping to rewrite legislation that currently protects criminal activity online.
Right now, federal law shields websites making money from the sexual exploitation of children and adults.
Websites, like Backpage, advertise the sale of products and services, but it doubles as a portal to illegal sexual activity online.
The Communication Decency Act protects these websites that advertise and profit from the sale of sex acts without consequences.
“So right now, if a 15-year-old girl is sold on Backpage in Columbia South Carolina and Backpage is making money off of her and she tries to sue Backpage, then our state Attorney General can do nothing about that.” Lynch Foundation for Children Director Brooke Burris told WJBF NewsChannel 6.
As it’s worded, the federal law makes it difficult for law enforcement officers to prosecute, users and traffickers, as well as places where illegal sex activity is advertised.
However, an amendment, making its way through the system, is proposing the Communication Decency Act be reworded to allow states and victims to fight online sex trafficking, put offenders behind bars and force websites to monitor and regulate posts for illegal activity.
Burris says many tech companies are putting up a fight, because the act hasn’t been touched in 21 years.
Right now, it gives website immunity for post by 3rd parties.
While she supports the 1996 Communication Decency Act, the focus needs to be on the victims.
“Lawmakers really need to think about okay is sex trafficking of little girls just collateral for the free speech economy and the growth of the internet economy that we have?” Burris said.
If passed, the amendment would allow violators to be fined, or face up to 20 years in jail.
Several area lawmakers are sponsoring the bill including Senator Tim Scott and Representative Joe Wilson.
Count on WJBF NewsChannel 6 to bring you the latest on this developing story.