The Senate last week passed a resolution exhorting Backpage.com to end publication of its adult entertainment section.
The measure was sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Kirk spouted the
hyped up bollox:
The numbers are rising, in part because it has become frighteningly simple to order a child prostitute on the Internet. One merely needs to look at the classified ads on Backpage.com, the leading Web
site for prostitution advertising in the United States according to the Advanced Interactive Media, AIM, Group. Just a few clicks on this site easily enables 'johns' to purchase children for sex. Law enforcement believes that the existence of Backpage
encourages the recruitment of victims for sexual exploitation because it allows traffickers to operate out of sight from police patrols.
Backpage.com argues that it works closely with law enforcement to identify, track down and arrest
anyone trafficking minors through the site. One such criminal was convicted in Florida a few weeks ago.
After ten years of crowded prisons and increased incarceration costs, the state of Texas is reconsidering its 2001 decision to send those charged with prostitution to prison after multiple convictions. Instead, the state may pursue sentencing that
provides treatment, not jail time.
In 2001, Texas legislators voted to send people convicted of prostitution with three or more convictions to state prison or jail. Currently, a first-time offense is a Class B misdemeanor and a second or third
offense is a Class A misdemeanor. If an individual is convicted three times, any subsequent charge is a felony that carries time in state prison or jail.
Currently, there are 350 individuals serving time for convictions of prostitution due to the
Texas pays $18,538 every year to house each of these incarcerated individuals.
Texas Prostitution Law Needs Reform Due to budget constraints and the questionable success of these tough laws, Texas is now reconsidering its decision
to imprison people convicted of prostitution.
Police in major cities in the United States are criminalising women who carry a stock of condoms, making sex workers and their clients less likely to use them and increasing their risk of contracting HIV, says Human Rights Watch.
A new report
compiles evidence from sex workers in four major cities -- Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Interviews with more than 300 people show that those most at risk of HIV, such as sex workers and transgender women, are afraid to
carry condoms in case they should be stopped and searched by police.
Prostitution is a crime in 49 states of the US. Law enforcement agencies view the possession of multiple condoms as evidence that could help a court prosecution for a breach of
HRW says police are impeding efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, costing millions of dollars:
Enforcement ... must be compatible with international human rights law, and governments should ensure that
police policies and practices do not conflict with equally important public health policy imperatives, including those designed to curb the HIV epidemic.
A federal judge has sided with Backpage.com against a Washington state law targeting small ads that would require online publishers to verify the age of those shown in the ads.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez granted a temporary restraining
order to put a halt to the statute, ruling that he'd hear arguments over it at a preliminary injunction hearing June 15.
SB 6251 would force websites to censor user content on the grounds that it would be unviable to actually check the ages of
pictures featuring in adverts. The bill threatens five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine per violation should publishers be caught out by an underage picture.
Backpage explained in the law suit:
expressly states that it is not a defense that the defendant did not know that the image was of a minor, Instead, to avoid prosecution, the defendant must obtain governmental or educational identification for the person depicted in the post.
This means that every service provider, no matter where headquartered or operated, must review each and every piece of third-party content posted on or through its service to determine whether it is an 'implicit' ad for a commercial
sex act in Washington, and whether it includes a depiction of a person, and, if so, must obtain and maintain a record of the person's ID.
Backpage said that SB 6251 contravenes Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which
prohibits Internet service providers from being treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by a third party.
Backpage counsel noted that other states are poised to follow Washington's lead. A similar law will soon take effect
in Tennessee, and the legislatures in New York and New Jersey are considering analogous bills.
A new censorship law in Washington state was first proposed on February 2, fast-tracked through the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire on March 29,
Senate Bill 6251 makes it a crime if a person (or company) knowingly publishes, disseminates, or displays, or causes directly or indirectly, to be published, disseminated, or displayed, any advertisement for a commercial sex act, which is to take place in the state of Washington and that includes the depiction of a minor.
Not much of a problem, right? But the devil here is in the details. Section 2 of the new law reads:
In a prosecution under this statute, it is not a defense that the defendant did not know the age of the
minor depicted in the advertisement. It is a defense, which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant made a reasonable bona fide attempt to ascertain the true age of the minor depicted in the advertisement by
requiring, prior to publication, dissemination, or display of the advertisement, production of a driver's license, marriage license, birth certificate, or other governmental or educational identification card or paper of the minor depicted in the
advertisement and did not rely solely on oral or written representations of the minor's age, or the apparent age of the minor as depicted. In order to invoke the defense, the defendant must produce for inspection by law enforcement a record of the
identification used to verify the age of the person depicted in the advertisement.
One might be tempted to think of this section as a requirement for a sort of 2257 recordkeeping for people who advertise themselves or others as
escorts, but in reality, it's a real Catch-22. Prostitution is still a crime in Washington state, so any person who'd like to engage in that profession and place ads online or in one of the local tabloids will have to reveal---and provide proof
of---his/her true identity to the company placing the ad online or in print, thus risking having the police subpoena such material from the publication/website owner... or simply seize it in a raid ostensibly looking for evidence of underage sex