The Sexploitation podcast decodes sexual harms and provides you with active solutions. We address the full spectrum of sexual exploitation, from sex trafficking to sexual violence, to rape culture, to pornography, and more. And better yet, we give you the tools to make a difference!
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Sep 23, 2016

This is episode #3 of the Sexploitation podcast, I’m here today with Dawn Hawkins from NCOSE, and today we’re talking about the question “Does Facebook Facilitate Sex Trafficking?”

We think of sex trafficking as only occurring in dingy dungeons, but really so much of it has moved online – it’s a digital age – you no longer need to “know a guy” or go to the seedy side of town to have access to information about buying sex – now access to what was previously an underground business is just a few clicks away.

Is sex trafficking happening on FB? Dawn Hawkins shares that it is. Pimps and traffickers are using social media sites like Facebook to "market" their "product." Often girls will post pictures and be smiling and seem like they are freely engaging, but sometimes they are being coerced behind the scenes.

Facebook doesn't want to be used this way, and they're trying to fix the problem, but they could be doing more. Other websites like Snapchat and Backpage, however, aren't taking any real steps to prevent this problem.

In 2010, Craiglist shut down its section for sex ads after getting criticized by state attorneys general and advocacy groups for its role in facilitating sex trafficking. (Unfortunately, it’s still probably taking place under thin code words elsewhere on the site)

So why aren't these websites being held accountable for at leas better monitoring and finding better solutions through technology?

Answer: The Communications Decency Act Loop Hole

These companies are hiding behind a law that has been completely misinterpreted by our high courts - the Communications Decency Act. Congress intended that this law help protect children from exposure to Internet pornography. The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by 3rd parties. Thus, if illegal pornography or other material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held blameless.

Section 230 was well intentioned, but when the substantive portions of the CDA were held unconstitutional, the 230 defense was left standing and has been used by companies like Backpage, which holds its site out as a place to advertise illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by 3rd parties on the sites.

Call to Action: contact your representatives and ask them to amend the CDA:

You can also learn more here: