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MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google, today refused to back a change in Internet law that would enable victims to hold websites that intentionally facilitate online child sex-trafficking accountable, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The refusal came from Kent Walker, Sr. Vice President and General Counsel of Alphabet Inc’s Google, in response to a question asked by Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson, an Alphabet Inc. shareholder, on behalf of Nacole S. whose daughter was sold repeatedly for sex through Backpage.com. Their story was documented in the film I am Jane Doe.

“It’s shocking that Google would flat out refuse to amend the legal shield the protects the online sex trafficking of children,” said Simpson. “This proves that Congress needs to take matters into its own hands and that Google is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides that a website can’t be held liable for what’s posted on its site by third parties. Tech companies and other defenders of CDA Section 230 claim it promotes and protects free expression on the Internet.

View a video clip of the exchange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCu6MvTWmDk&feature=youtu.be

The question Simpson read on Nacole’s behalf:

“Good morning, Dr. Schmidt, Alphabet and Google executives, board members and shareholders. I am Nacole S. I hope you have seen I am Jane Doe; it is available on Google Play and Netflix. It documents how my 15-yeard-old daughter was sold repeatedly for sex through the notorious website Backpage.com.

“Consumer Watchdog’s recent report, How Google’s Backing of Backpage Protects Child Sex Trafficking, details how Alphabet Inc.’s Google has funded nonprofit groups and legal scholars who continue to defend Backpage in the name of Internet freedom. Internet freedom can’t be about helping websites sell children for sex. That’s got to end.

“Will you stop funding groups in their misguided effort to defend Backpage no matter what harm it causes? Going forward, will you support a narrow amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that would allow victims like my daughter and me to hold Backpage accountable for intentionally facilitating child sex trafficking?”

Last month a coalition of anti-child sex trafficking and public interest groups and Nacole S. released a report detailing Backpage’s abuses. It documented how Google has funded efforts to defend CDA Sec. 230.

“For years, one company—Backpage.com—has dominated online trafficking in minors for sex. The advertising giant’s reach is vast, with sites catering to 437 locations in the U.S. and 506 overseas. So is its impact: By one count, 73% of all suspected child trafficking reports in the U.S. involve Backpage,” the report said.

Joining in issuing the report were Nacole S., Consumer Watchdog, DeliverFund, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Trafficking America Taskforce and The Rebecca Project. View a copy of the report here.

Consumer Watchdog has called on tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, to support amending a narrow amendment to CDA Sec. 230 so companies like Backpage.com, that intentionally facilitate child sex trafficking, can be held accountable by victims and state attorneys general.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg here.

Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) has introduced H.R. 1865, Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – the law that shields Backpage from accountability for its ongoing abuses.

In earlier letters to the tech companies Consumer Watchdog’s Simpson wrote:

“We call on you to support a narrow amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- H.R. 1865, the ‘Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act’ could be the vehicle -- that would allow Backpage to be held accountable for its ongoing facilitating of child sex trafficking.”

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