Leading a 21-state coalition, Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a federal law that gives state prosecutors greater authority to take legal action against websites that host sex-trafficking ads.
In his friend-of-the-court brief, Attorney General Paxton urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold last year’s lower court dismissal of a constitutional challenge to the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). Among other things, FOSTA ensures that prosecutors across the country may go after anyone who intentionally facilitates sex trafficking online. It also creates the ability for state attorneys general to bring civil suits against violators of federal prostitution laws.
“Texas and other states dedicated to combating human trafficking need the assistance of tools like the ones provided by FOSTA to target criminal activity involving those who knowingly participate in the sex trafficking of women and children,” Attorney General Paxton said. “FOSTA isn’t a threat to any websites that aren’t knowingly violating criminal laws.”
FOSTA amended the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which websites such as Backpage.com used to claim immunity from criminal and civil actions. FOSTA passed the U.S. Senate, 97-2, last March and was signed into law by President Trump last April. Its impact on the internet was immediate, as Craigslist and other sites shut down sex-related areas and stopped accepting sex-related ads.
Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority. Three years ago, he launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section, which prosecutes human traffickers across the state. Since then, 23 cases have been resolved with pleas or trials. Most recently, the section’s prosecutors obtained a conviction and 55-year prison sentence of a man who forced two young women into sex trafficking after having contacted the youngest of them online.
Last April, the section’s prosecution of Backpage.com resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in Texas and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, pleading guilty to money laundering. The attorney general’s office also assisted the U.S. Department of Justice with permanently shutting down Backpage, which was considered the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the U.S.
In January 2018, Attorney General Paxton unveiled a powerful training video to teach Texans how to spot and report suspected human trafficking activity. “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” is available for viewing online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/human-trafficking.
Texas is joined on the friend-of-the-court brief by the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
View a copy of the brief here.