The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 7, 2013

States take aim at sex-ad websites, but run into resistance

ORLANDO, Fla. — A two-word change proposed to one of the nation’s first online laws has triggered a battle between law enforcement and Internet libertarians.

On one side, top law enforcers for nearly every state are calling on Congress to change a federal act so state laws can be used against websites with ads from prostitutes and pimps.

On the other side, an Internet advocacy group, the American Civil Liberties Union and others are pushing back, saying the change would restrict free speech.

The fight centers on Backpage.com, a website that posts classified ads, and the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Nearly 50 attorneys general want to add just two words — “or state” — to the act, a change that would subject websites to state laws and, critics say, place websites under a crippling tangle of regulations.

Supporters, though, including the National Association of Attorneys General, said the change is needed because federal officials have failed to take a tough stand against websites used by sex traffickers and prostitutes.

“By updating federal law, we can give prosecutors the tools they need to crack down on those who use technology to exploit children,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who announced her support of the amendment last week.

Opponents of the change, including the Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology and the ACLU, said “the proposed amendment would jeopardize the continued growth of the entire Internet industry and the free expression rights of Internet users everywhere.”

Advertising for prostitution and child-sex trafficking has flourished online thanks to websites such as Backpage, most attorneys general said in a letter to Congress.

Backpage — a website that allows paying users to post sex ads — is not the only website that criminals are using to promote prostitution, but it is the largest and the one most often used by law enforcement agencies to find offenders.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Injured snowy owl ready to be released ST. PAUL (AP) — A rare snowy owl that gained national attention when it was apparently hit by a bus in the nation's capital is scheduled to be released into the wild after a rehab stint in Minnesota. The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • Court case to test 'Buy the Farm' law NEW PRAGUE (AP) — A case set for trial next week is expected to test Minnesota's "Buy the Farm" law, which is meant to require utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms in the way if affected landowners demand it. The case pits th

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge strikes down part of state energy law MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders — and she barred Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • White House updating online privacy policy A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tribut

    April 18, 2014

  • Horse virus cases showing up in Upper Midwest BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — State officials in the Upper Midwest are cautioning horse owners about a virus that spreads easily among the animals and can lead to breathing problems, abortions and nervous system disorders. Three cases of equine herpesvirus

    April 18, 2014

  • Bear attacks spark debate: Kill them, or leave them alone? ORLANDO, Fla.—Dallas Smith thinks he has the answer to Central Florida’s black-bear threat, and he’s ready to lock and load it. “I think the fear of God needs to be put back into them,” said Smith, 47, who wants state authorities to lift restriction

    April 18, 2014

  • Tourism push plays up 'Only in Minnesota' ST. PAUL — (AP) — Say goodbye to "More to Explore." Minnesota tourism promoters ushered in a new slogan Thursday that focuses on "Only in Minnesota" experiences as part of their largest-ever advertising campaign. The revamped message kicks off a maj

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp ap pipeline photo Minnesota Pipe Line seeks to expand capacity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Pipe Line Co. announced plans Thursday to nearly double the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Canada and North Dakota to the two refineries in the Twin Cities that produce most of Minnesota's and much

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holder asserts his commitment to fighting heroin WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been crusading for more lenient treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, making it a top priority before he is expected to leave office this year. Recently, however, he has been forced to confront

    April 17, 2014

  • Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds ATLANTA — Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her speech, but she

    April 17, 2014