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Romanucci & Blandin Client Testifies Before Senate in D.C.

Posted on: October 11th, 2017 by Romanucci & Blandin

On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, Romanucci & Blandin client Yvonne Ambrose bravely testified before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington D.C. Ambrose commanded the crowded hearing room, courageously sharing her daughter Desiree Robinson’s story.

Desiree was a 16-year-old girl who was murdered in a Markham, Illinois garage on Christmas Eve 2016. The events that led to Desiree Robinson’s death took place because she had become a victim of sex trafficking and was featured in solicitation posts on the controversial website Backpage.com. Backpage is currently the subject of a number of investigations around the country for alleged sex trafficking activity and is named as a defendant in a civil complaint filed by R&B.

The complaint states that Backpage knows that its website facilitates child sex trafficking and facilitates this activity, including concealing evidence of criminality by systematically editing its adult ads for minors. The site is the subject of a number of additional lawsuits around the country.

In her testimony, Ambrose tearfully urged Senators to consider bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal which would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). If passed, “The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017” would help in curbing the online sex trafficking of children and holding the parties responsible for these actions accountable. The bill would add language that exempts “sex trafficking of children” and “sex trafficking by force” from Section 230, which was written in 1996 when the internet was in its infancy.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives about 9,000 to 10,000 reports of suspected child sex trafficking each year. Of those reports, more than 80% of the incidents have occurred online – with the majority occurring on Backpage. And while the website has been sued by young women who were sold for sex there, or prosecuted by law enforcement authorities in Illinois and California, judges have ruled that Section 230 of the CDA grants Backpage immunity because it is merely hosting the sex-related content, not creating it.

We are extremely proud of Yvonne and are hopeful that our country’s senators will all seriously consider this new legislation which would make a difference in the lives of so many.

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