News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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
Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death Raw: Rocket Explodes Over Israeli Wedding Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Weaver Reprises Ripley Role for 'Alien' Game Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Raw: World's Tallest Water Slide Opens Thursday Raw: Stampede in Rio During World Cup Sterling Testifies in Los Angeles Clippers Trial Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor Tornadoes Kill Four in Central New York Track Owners Fight to End Greyhound Racing Raw: Obama Shoots Pool in Denver Obama Talks Economy, Slams Republicans Typhoon Nears Japan's Main Islands Raw: Palestinians Clash With Israeli Forces Mississippi River Flooding Likely to Slow Down Wisconsin Cop Ready to Roll...On Skateboard Cleveland Picked to Host 2016 GOP Convention Today in History for July 9th Former NFL Player 'Excited' Deal Almost Done
NDN Video
Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel Pilot buys pizzas for travelers delayed by storm Klose nets record, Germany rout Brazil 7-1 'Purrmanently Sad Cat' Looks Adorably Sad All the Time Pharrell 'humbled' by success of mega-hit 'Happy' Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Jennifer Lawrence Facepalms Emma Watson Athletes Bare All for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue Raw: Brazil Fans Leaving Stadium Before Half Andi Dorfman Walks Out During the Rose Ceremony 5 Firework Fails for July 4th Justin Bieber Catches Tom Hanks Getting Down, Showing ‘How We Do It Big shoes to fill for Brazil ahead of Germany clash Man's 'Potato Salad' Plea Takes Off on Kickstarter Joan Rivers Storms Out of Interview Watch: A turtle and dog play ball Yikes! This Jet is Way Too Close Late-Night Highlight: Ben Falcone Screwed Up His Proposal To Melissa McCarthy Jenny and Sherri Talk "View" Departure
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