Websites that actively advertise sex with children could soon face criminal prosecution.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of bills aimed at curbing sex trafficking in South Dakota and across the country. Congresswoman Kristi Noem co-sponsored the measures that will allow federal prosecutors to go after sites like backpage.com.
The website has been the target of prosecutors across the country as they try to shut down sex trafficking and the exploitation of teen girls and children.
Noem is now urging the Senate to follow the House's lead.
"If we don't have these tools we're going to continue to allow that to happen and for me that's unacceptable," Representative Kristi Noem (R) South Dakota said.
The legislation passed in the House Tuesday includes a new National Human Trafficking Hotline and more funding to help victims.
The House also passed a measure that will allow federal prosecutors to file criminal charges against websites that advertise sex with children.
"Backpage makes million and millions of dollars each year from selling sex with children and this bill specifically is aimed at companies like that to stop them and allow prosecutors to go after them when they knowingly allow these types of advertisements to go forward," Noem said.
The American Civil Liberties Union supports efforts to stop sex trafficking but is raising concerns with the bill. On its national website the ACLU says the legislation could unintentionally squelch legal free speech.
"It will result in a ‘notice-and-takedown’ regime where both law enforcement and members of the public will notify platforms that a particular ad looks troubling,” Gabe Rottman, ACLU Legislative Counsel in Washington D.C. wrote. “Advertisers will immediately take it down without any due diligence to make sure it is, in fact, illegal.”
But Noem says the package of legislation will be key to shutting down the sites that help sex traffickers.
"It's going to be very effective and key to stopping a lot of the sex trafficking that's going on in this country," Noem said.
The bills still need to be taken up and passed by the Senate.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley applauds Noem and her efforts to get the legislation passed. Jackley adds that he would also like to see Congress give local and state authorities power to prosecute websites that advertise sex with children.