Apr 30 2014
Chairman Goodlatte: The United States is in the midst of a criminal epidemic and our children are the target. We’ve been referring all morning to this epidemic as domestic minor sex trafficking. But let’s call it what it really is – the forcible rape of children for profit.
And the Internet is spurring this epidemic. Criminals can now use websites to advertise, schedule, and purchase sexual encounters with children. According to the Polaris Project, U.S. law enforcement has identified online advertisements as the primary platform for buying and selling sex with children, and an FBI study found more than 2,800 children were advertised on just one online advertisement service.
When criminals exploit children for their own financial gain and personal pleasure, they rob them of their innocence and destroy their childhood. It goes without saying that no child should be subjected to this horrifying and inhumane violence. Sadly, it happens across the country every single day.
The investigation and prosecution of sex trafficking has often been carried out by state and local law enforcement. Congress has focused its attention on the domestic sex trafficking of children, which includes commercial sex acts involving children under the age of 18. Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, or TVPA, the primary law that addresses trafficking, sex trafficking of children in interstate commerce is a federal crime.
H.R. 4225, the ‘‘Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act of 2014’’ or SAVE Act, simply clarifies Congress’s intent in enacting the TVPA that knowingly trafficking children for sex – or knowingly profiting from the forcible rape of children for profit – is against the law, regardless of the medium.
Pimps and traffickers who sell our children for sex should not get a free pass to destroy these innocent lives simply because they advertise their crimes on the Internet. And websites that knowingly profit from these despicable acts should be held accountable.
Some have urged the Committee not to pursue this legislation because prohibiting the advertising of sex trafficking will have a “chilling effect” on Internet advertising. But this legislation does not prohibit Internet advertising. It does not prohibit Internet advertising of prostitution.
It does not even prohibit ALL Internet advertising that offers sex with children or sex with adults through force, fraud, or coercion. It prohibits ONLY those advertisements that the government can prove actually offer sex with a child or sex with an adult who is involved due to force, fraud or coercion.
Many trafficking advertisements do not explicitly offer sex with children but rather disguise their illegal services using benign or vague terms. But some advertisements are explicit and it’s these advertisements that the government will hopefully more successfully target once this legislation is enacted.
Advertisements that offer illegal products or services are not protected speech under the First Amendment and there is well-established precedent for Congress to criminalize the advertising of illegal goods or services, including advertising of child pornography, weapons of mass destruction, illegal narcotics and prescription controlled substances, and animal fighting ventures.
In September 2010, less than four years ago, the House passed a bill under suspension of the rules that explicitly made it a crime to advertise animal crush videos. Certainly, advertisements that offer sex with children are as worthy, if not more worthy, of congressional attention as those seeking to subject animals to harm.
The SAVE Act also applies only to those who knowingly advertise or knowingly profit from advertising that offers children for sex or sex with an adult who is under force, fraud or coercion. Thus, a person who does not have the requisite criminal intent to engage in the advertising of illegal sex trafficking would not be liable.
This legislation modernizes federal criminal law to keep pace with the evolving trend of exploiting the Internet for criminal gains. It sends a clear message to sex traffickers and those who enable them – your destruction of innocent lives will not be tolerated.
I commend our colleague from Missouri, Ms. Wagner, for sponsoring this legislation and I urge my colleagues to join me in reporting it favorably to the House.