Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Attorneys General send letter to Congress calling for an amendment to the Communications Decency Act

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson today joined a bi-partisan coalition of 49 Attorneys General calling on Congress to amend the law to help fight prostitution and sex trafficking. In a letter to key members of Congress, the Attorneys General advocated that Congress amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors. The letter’s lead sponsors were Attorneys General from the states of Missouri, South Dakota and Washington.

According to Ferguson, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was drafted when the internet was in its infancy. The original purpose of the Act was to protect children from accessing indecent material online, but courts have interpreted certain provisions of the Act to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.

Prostitution is predominately a local crime that is most effectively handled by local law enforcement agencies. The Attorneys General believe the Communications Decency Act needs to extend criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors to help combat these crimes.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” said Ferguson. “The Communications Decency Act needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who use technology to promote the sexual exploitation of children.”

Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online.  Backpage.com, for example, generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.

Washington Attorney General’s Office has a history of leading anti-human trafficking efforts. In 2011, the Washington Attorney General’s Office launched Four Pillars of Hope: Attorneys General Unite Against Human Trafficking. Ferguson currently co-chairs the 2013-14 NAAG Human Trafficking Committee.