The editorial “A major victory in fight to end sex trafficking” correctly applauds the Department of Justice Department for finally taking action. For too long, Backpage.com has profited by publishing ads of those in the business of child sex trafficking.
However, the editorial could have gone further in acknowledging the significant groundwork done at the state and local level in the years leading up to the DOJ’s action.
In the Legislature, my colleagues and I led the way by taking action against websites like Backpage.com.
Senate Bill 6251, enacted in 2012, created a law against knowingly publishing an escort ad online or in print that involves a minor — the first of its kind in the nation specifically directed at Backpage.com. Unfortunately, later that year, Backpage.com sued in federal court to block SB 6251 and won. The judge cited the legislation violated the 1996 Federal Communications Decency Act. As a result, SB 6251 was repealed in 2013.
In response, we passed Senate Bill 5488 that imposed a $5,000 fine for using online ads to facilitate commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
We must continue to pioneer new ways of tackling this complex and horrific problem. Children and their families are depending on us.
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle, King County Councilmember, District 4