A U.S. District Court judge recently struck down a law passed by the Legislature last year, because it violated section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA). The Washington law would have attacked the purveyors of child-prostitution on the Internet, requiring them to prove the age of all girls depicted in sex-related advertisements.
It was a sensible law, targeted specifically at Backpage.com, notorious for trafficking young women. The federal judge ordered the Legislature to repeal the law, as part of the settlement with the website.
The Legislature must continue to press the issue by crafting a new law during the 2013 session that avoids conflict with the federal CDA. And incoming Attorney General Bob Ferguson should work with lawmakers to continue the ground-breaking work to protect young women started by outgoing Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The ultimate solution lies with Congress. When they passed the CDA in 1996, no one imagined that girls as young as 12 and 13 would be openly sold for sex on the Internet. Section 230 of the federal law was designed to protect websites and other online services from liability for the material posted by other people.
Congress did not mean to extend that protection to pimps.
Federal lawmakers can fix their mistake by revising the Communications Decency Act, perhaps using Washington’s Engrossed Senate Bill 6252 as a starting point.