Hold Websites Accountable for Aiding and Abetting Human Trafficking

There are people all around, the mall is buzzing with shoppers all looking for different things–candles, soaps, clothes, lamps, humans. From one of the shops a man yells, “Only here for tonight! Barely legal.” A woman proclaims, “Back by popular demand. You asked for her!”

Okay, so maybe this does not happen at malls. Selling people doesn’t happen in the open, right? But it does–people are advertised and sold in public forums every day. More than that, companies in charge of these specific forums are aware that human trafficking is taking place and they do nothing to stop these crimes from happening. In fact, they choose to enable the criminal activity.

The forum in question–is the internet. One reason businesses do not take action against human trafficking is that they are making a profit from the crime. Another reason is because they will not be held liable for the crimes of others–even though they know it is happening.

Companies make money from online ads for human trafficking and they are not held responsible for making sure these ads are stopped due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties.  Therefore, if illegal pornography or other material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.  (This makes sense, UNLESS the site is accepting money for posting the content. In that case, they should certainly be held responsible.)

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal,  or otherwise tortious  content found on the  Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties . . . The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well-intentioned, but it has been used by companies to defend its “right” to accept payment for advertising illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites. (Even if the site profits from the third party content, as in the case of advertising.)  It is estimated that backpage alone makes approximately $3 million per month on ads for prostituted and trafficked women and children (Lee, 2014).

We cannot allow companies to get away with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking simply because they stand behind the excuses provided by this law. They make millions of dollars (backpage made $39 million by facilitating prostitution with adult ads June 2012-May 2013) off of the sexual exploitation of women and children. This cannot continue in the United States of America.

Call on Congress to amend the CDA in order to protect the people whose first amendment right is merely one right being taken away. If we would not allow it in our malls or other public places, we should not allow it on the web. The National Association of Attorneys General has shown their support of Congress amending section 230 of the CDA in order to prevent trafficking of children since July of 2013. They suggested that the wording of Section 230 be altered so that State and local law enforcement agencies have the authority to arrest and prosecute companies who accept money to advertise human trafficking victims on websites.

We have to start taking responsibility and acting to end human trafficking. No more “I didn’t know.” No more “choosing not to see.” No more human trafficking.

If you support the proposal for the CDA to be amended, please follow the link below to sign our petition. In addition, please share the link for the petition/and or this post to help raise awareness and demand the eradication of human trafficking. Thank you for your time, consideration, and for your efforts in the fight for freedom.


Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“One person can make a difference. In fact, it’s not only possible for one person to make a difference, it’s essential that one person makes a difference. And believe it or not, that person is you.” ―Bob Riley

*This post is not calling for the dismantlement of any particular website. It is not encouraging the restriction of rights for anyone. This post is, however, arguing for businesses, who are profiting from crime and exploitation of people, to be held liable when they have been made aware of the issue on their pages and continue to do nothing to stop it.

Check out this video clip of Rep. Ann Wagner talking about enforcement of  JVTA and implementing SAVE. https://www.facebook.com/RepAnnWagner/videos/832005393602803


Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Lee, Patrick G. “Backpage.com Accused of Helping Pimps in Child Sex Trade.” BloomburgBusiness. n.p., 16 Oct. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.



Yes, Human Trafficking Happens in NC

This year alone, there has been 142 human trafficking victims and survivors identified in North Carolina through the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Furthermore, 115 calls have been made to the National Trafficking Resource Center and 38 cases reported [1]. (These numbers were updated on March 31, 2016.)

Since 2007, there has been a total of 1,372 victims of human trafficking identified and 609 cases investigated [1].

These numbers are a reflection of cases identified through the NHT Hotline–other cases and victims are reported/found through law enforcement or other agencies like Social Services.

So, yes. Human Trafficking happens in North Carolina.

But what does that mean? We are starting to hear about human trafficking, but do we really understand what it is?

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” –United Nations

The two main categories of human trafficking are labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Debt-bondage and child labor are also examples of human trafficking [3,4].  Trafficking is happening when a person is put into situations of labor or sex trafficking through the use of “force, fraud, or coercion.” However, in the case of child sexual exploitation, it is immediately deemed exploitation–force, fraud, or coercion does not have to be proven.<sup>3 <sup> Children cannot legally consent to sex, so logically they cannot consent to sell themselves. (Thank goodness for the Child Safe Harbor Act of 2013 which made it so that children could not be charged with prostitution [5]. Find more information on this act here: http://ocrcc.org/safeharbor/ )

Trafficking happens when a parent or relative sells a child for sex. That happens in North Carolina. Trafficking happens when employees are exploited. That happens in North Carolina. Sex and labor trafficking happens in North Carolina.


Here are some links to articles discussing cases of human trafficking in North Carolina: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article75449692.html





These five are just the tip of the iceberg.

Below, are two links to articles that mention the prevalence of human trafficking in the Tarheel State:




It’s a Lack of Choice

It is a popular notion that “trafficking is just a new term for ‘prostitution’ and it is happening between consenting adults.” A child is a victim. In a situation where a girl (or boy) is trafficked at say the age of 12, this person is considered a victim. This child is abused emotionally, physically, and sexually and is told that they are worthless and that no one could possibly love them after what they have done–How is it that after six years in this horribly abusive life, that they are no longer a victim? How is 18 a glorified turning point where a person goes from victim to criminal? Sometimes women (and men) “choose” to be in it because what else are they supposed to do? They first met their pimp when they were 12 years old. 12. For six year (or longer) they were sold for sex (or used for labor). What about people who did not get an education because it did not fit in with their trafficker’s plans? They may not have existed by society’s standards for almost a decade–no paper trail, no record. They have been told repeatedly that they are not anything worthwhile and no one could possibly love them after what they’ve done.

So, for many men and women, no it’s not a true choice–it’s a lack of choice. Had circumstances been different in their lives they would have likely never said yes to this life as an adult.

Why talk about human trafficking? Why do some people care so much?

Because it matters–because it happens on a global scale and happens in our local communities. Because it’s uncomfortable to talk about–so we often don’t.

Because we need to acknowledge and help survivors–because they need to be believed. And because there are misunderstandings and misconceptions about modern slavery that need to be addressed.

We’re finally starting to understand that victims of domestic violence do not stay in abusive relationships because they “like” being hurt. There are psychological and emotional factors at play. There are threats, and those threats are believable, which is why they are effective.

“A victim may stay in the relationship because they are scared of what the abuser will do if they leave. When an abuser calls their partner names, puts them down and plays mind games it can make the victim feel bad about themselves. Many times victims believe that the abuse is their fault or that they deserve the abuse.” –The advocacy center www.theadvocacycenter.org/adv_violencewhy.html

It is a similar situation with trafficking victims and survivors.

Trafficking survivors need help. And love–and resource for support so that they can earn an education and job skills so that they have other options and they have the power to take control of their own lives (because it’s theirs and theirs alone). And they deserve respect. They are people. And they matter.

No more accusations. No more preconceived notions and biases preventing us from growing as a community. No more hate. No more dehumanizing–that just makes it easier to ignore people who need our help, hold traffickers accountable, and fight the problem of modern slavery. Trafficking victims and survivors are people. And they deserve to be treated well–they deserve to be treated like people.

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” ― Margaret Wheatley

Sources referenced and links for more information:

  1. https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/state/north-carolina
  2. http://sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking
  3. http://www.humantraffickingsearch.net/typesoftrafficking/
  4. http://sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking
  5. http://ocrcc.org/safeharbor/



Umbrella Market and Fair Trade

Individuals in Eastern North Carolina are encouraged to attend the Umbrella Market in Uptown Greenville. http://uptowngreenville.com/play/umbrella-market/

ENC Stop Human Trafficking will have a booth at the weekly event where we will be selling certified fair trade items that have been hand-crafted from around the world! The Umbrella Market is every Wednesday, weather permitting, from 5 to 8. The first one of the summer will be today, May 4.

Come on out to see all the local vendors and make sure to stop by our table

There’s a phrase related to the goods we buy, but do we really understand the power behind those two words? Fair Trade.

This is the definition provided by the World Fair Trade Organization:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that
seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by
offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”


Fair trade provides justice in the world by dignifying workers around the world by providing them with fair compensation for their products. This in turn allows people to support and care for themselves and their families.

This label does not mean products will be too expensive for consumers. Fair trade item prices are often on par with the prices of items of similar quality. Fair trade does not mean that individuals from the developing world are paid wages that workers from the Western World are paid. It simply means that they are paid a wage that is fair–it’s based on price of production and is fair compensation for the time and materials invested in the product. This also means that fair trade is not charity–we are not over-paying workers because they are in need–we are insuring they are paid what they are owed.

Fair trade offers sustainability–people can continue to work. Without fair compensation these individuals would not be able to continue in the same work because investment would be greater than reward. Situations where individuals are worked without fair compensation–because of force, fraud, or coercion–are instances of labor trafficking. Fair trade insures trafficking is not occurring anywhere in the supply chain. Increase in the demand for fair trade will in turn decrease the demand for slavery.

What can we do to decrease labor trafficking both in our own communities and on a global scale?

  1. Buy local goods when you can. This way, you know where the items are coming from and where the revenue is going.
  2. Buy fair trade certified goods when you have the option. (Look for logo.) This in turn, shows businesses that the fair trade certification is important to consumers.
  3. When we go to our favorite stores, cafes, and restaurants ask about stocking with fair trade products.
  4. Support legislation that promotes transparency in supply chains and supports the eradication of slave labor.
  5. Change the way we speak about workers in other countries. It’s easier to dehumanize fellow inhabitants of our world than we realize, and that is dangerous.
  6. Share articles on social media and show that you support fair wages for products around the world. Believe it or not, political offices keep track of what seems to be trending topics on social media sites, because this gives insight into what is important to voters.
  7. Remind ourselves that a few dollars on clothes and other goods is not worth someone else paying with their lives. We’re in it, to end it.
  8. Continue to ask questions. The World Fair Trade Organization http://wfto.com/our-path-fair-trade and Fair Trade USA http://fairtradeusa.org/# are great resources.

http://fairtrader.coop/ Fair Trader is an online shop with items that are certified fair trade. (Who doesn’t love online shopping?)



We Can End This

A group of people enter the grand home of a man dressed in bright clothes. The man in red welcomes his guests and asks, “What would you like? Drinks, video games, girls?”

Nonchalantly, women were offered as part of a list of items and treated as objects used for entertainment. This scene is from near the end of a comedic film I recently watched. Closer to the beginning of the movie a strip club was introduced. More than that, a residence was attached to the club and it appeared that the women lived there–they possibly were not allowed to leave the club.

As the main characters were led through the residential area, at the back and up the stairs, they pass a room. In that room is about a dozen men and one, maybe two, women barely clothed. In another scene, at least half a dozen people are standing in their undergarments on a drug line. They’re not allowed to wear clothes to prevent the “workers” from stealing. Dozens of people do not elect to enter in this life. They aren’t the ones making the money–it’s their bosses that they fear. Yet, we don’t realize the biggest problem in these scenes: human trafficking.

Human trafficking was not a theme in the movie–it probably was never meant to be portrayed. These people are beautiful, and without scars. No matter how short they may be, fictional scenes like this unintentionally fuel misunderstandings–the ill conceived notions that victims want to be in this life and that they are free to come and go as they please. Hundreds of people collaborated on this movie, but no one noticed that there were characters, without names, that were being subjected to both sex and labor trafficking. I found myself heartbroken. Heartbroken because in the background, sitting unnoticed, was modern day slavery.

If project team members did not think twice, would other viewers notice?

Much like in the movie, in life human trafficking happens in the background–it occurs off to the side. Society does not see it. Even when signs are present, we often do not recognize human trafficking. We NEED to see the signs and we need to stand together and say enough is enough.

When we watch a movie and we see the main character enter in an agreement with an antagonist, and then the antagonist alters the arrangement, we can sympathize with the protagonist. He/she did not want to be there, they were threatened, they did enter a plan willingly but then the bad guy changed the game. Why then do we question people in the real world who find themselves in a bad situation such as human trafficking? Why do we approach real people in a manner that suggests that they want to be trafficked and harmed? If thirty minutes to an hour of background information is all it takes for us to understand a person’s story in a film, then we should take the time to educate ourselves on the signs of human trafficking. Make an effort to understand trafficking from the victim’s perspective. Realize that human trafficking is a different culture–survivors and victims have a specific understanding of the world and how they need to live. This is where we start in order to end human trafficking in Eastern North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Eradicating slavery requires us to start recognizing the signs and speaking up.

If we all decide that every person matters–that every person deserves to be free–free from disease, free from hatred, free from judgement, and free from slavery–and if we make the conscious effort to insure that freedom is achieved, then human trafficking will be eradicated. The only catch is that it is our responsibility–we have to choose to become abolitionists. We can do it. We can end this.

Below is a list of signs of human trafficking that the Polaris Project posted on their website. Link: https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs This list is not all possible signs, however. To learn more please visit their website and/or www.traffickingresourcecenter.org. Both are excellent resources.

If you suspect human trafficking or need to ask for help, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP to: BeFree (233733).

“Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story”

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead


Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr