News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Indiana Legislature

September 4, 2011

MAUREEN HAYDEN: Potential ‘Super’ problem awaits

When I first heard Indiana Deputy Attorney General David Miller talk about the need to fast-track legislation that would add child trafficking to the state’s sex offenses, I was baffled.

At the risk of sounding naïve, I didn’t understand the urgency in Miller’s argument: that the bill needed to be passed and signed into law before early February, when tens of thousands of sports fans will descend upon the state’s capital city for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Miller told me most of those fans will be law-abiding. But he also informed me that before the 2011 Super Bowl weekend in Dallas, it was the Texas Attorney General who described the party-filled spectacle — saturated with sex and alcohol — as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.”

The Texas AG’s fears mirrored the worries of Miami law enforcement before the Super Bowl was played there in 2010: an influx of underage prostitutes brought into the city to service an increased demand for commercial sex from tourists in town for the game.

Sounds incredibly sordid, doesn’t it? Almost like the story line for a fictional TV cop show.

But Miller’s boss, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, is taking the scenario seriously. He argues that current state law makes it a crime to solicit a child for sex, but doesn’t cover the organized exploitation of children by people who profit from the sale of sex with a minor. He’d like the Indiana legislature to change that, quickly, when it convenes again in January.

Last week Zoeller offered a glimpse of how child exploitation flourishes in the digital age. He joined with more than 40 attorneys general across the U.S. in a push to shut down the “escorts” section on backpage.com, an online advertising site where ads for prostitutes — including underage ones — have routinely appeared.

Zoeller co-signed a letter sent to backpage.com’s attorney, calling the site “a hub” for prostitution and human trafficking and challenging the company to come through on its promises to shut down the ads that offer or solicit sex with children.

The letter cites the May arrest of a Massachusetts man who advertised on backpage.com to solicit customers to have sex with a 15-year-old girl whom he forced into prostitution. The letter also says that backpage.com officials admit they identify more than 400 “adult services” posts every month that may involve minors.

Company officials point to their content policy, aimed at preventing child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but Zoeller and his colleagues don’t think they’ve done nearly enough. They note in their letter that the site makes an estimated $22.7 million annually from ads posted in its escorts section.

You’d think there’d already be a law the state attorneys general could wield, but it’s not that simple. In 1996, Congress passed legislation aimed at protecting children from online abuse, but the law also gives Internet content providers, like backpage.com, broad immunity from liability for content posted by third parties — even the sick, sordid exploiters of children who appeal to the darkest desires of adults.

Maureen Hayden is Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Indiana Legislature
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Obama Signs Workforce Training Law WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City
NDN Video
Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity