In the late 19th and early 20th century, the focal point of this symbolic fighting was the dance hall. Well, Congress did make that determination. Thankfully, section of the Communications Decency Act, passed in , established that the Internet doesn't work this way. Like many forums, Internet platforms are generally not legally liable for content created by others. The act, now headed Obama's way, included a provision—opposed by civil liberties groups , publishers, and victims' advocates —to hold website owners criminally responsible when trafficking victims are advertised there.
To the contrary, allowing Internet platforms on which sexual services are brokered to thrive may be key to apprehending traffickers and recovering victims. The tendency to confuse "a problem's disappearance with its resolution" winds up "doubly dangerous where, as here, visibility actually contributes to the solution. The cross-country nature of the site allows authorities to track potential victims who may move around a lot, and provides tangible evidence for prosecutors to use against their exploiters. Yet lawmakers at the municipal, state, and federal level argue that because some small percentage of ads may be posted by criminals, the whole site should be shut down, or, at the very least, held criminally responsible for any illegal transactions it unwittingly facilitates. Levy finds that both campaigns are "pageantry: Like many forums, Internet platforms are generally not legally liable for content created by others. Now it's online venues such as the classified ad sites Craigslist and Backpage. Conversely, they take the eradication of prostitution from certain highly visible spaces as an absolute victory against exploitation, despite all evidence suggesting the activity will simply migrate elsewhere. Thankfully, section of the Communications Decency Act, passed in , established that the Internet doesn't work this way. Follow Elizabeth Nolan Brown on Twitter. The existence of an escorts section in a classified ad service, whatever its social merits, is not illegal. However, "singly or in the aggregate, the allegedly sordid practices of Backpage The fantasy that these websites are bad actors—and are thus worthy enemies of antitrafficking advocates—not only distracts from efforts to hold traffickers accountable, but causes an invaluable resource for apprehending traffickers and recovering victims to be squandered. To the extent that they are forums for trafficking, they are also forums for its antidote. But that only holds water if, in the absence of the site, there would be no alternative options for exploitation. All of this is used by politicians and professional activists as evidence that Backpage causes sex trafficking, or is especially complicit in it. Anyone under that misguided impression—and anyone seeking to push back against it—should check out some new research published in the Wake Forest Law Review. This simply isn't true. Later, Levy slams "initiatives to shutter these venues. Activists in both eras have also mistaken prostitution's increasing visibility to middle-class audiences for an increase in prostitution itself. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the focal point of this symbolic fighting was the dance hall. But by this logic, Facebook is guilty whenever anyone posts a threat there, Craigslist is culpable should a landlord want "females only," and Reason is guilty should any of you folks broker a drug deal in the comments. Indeed, all they provide is a space in which people become visible. While more visibility invites more business, it also increases the possibility that victims will be discovered by law enforcement, or anyone else looking for them. The act, now headed Obama's way, included a provision—opposed by civil liberties groups , publishers, and victims' advocates —to hold website owners criminally responsible when trafficking victims are advertised there. The consequences of visibility are up to users—exploiters, law enforcement, nongovernment organizations "NGOs" , and concerned citizens, among others.
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