Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 27, 2013

Effort to target sex ads hits obstacle

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Top law enforcement officers across the country are pushing Congress for greater authority to go after a booming online industry that hosts ads for child sex traffickers. But they are encountering opposition from an unexpected source — conservative state lawmakers who fear a government clamp down on Internet businesses.

The conflict highlights the difficulty of policing an online marketplace that has rapidly evolved under a generally hands-off approach by government.

A coalition of conservative lawmakers and businesses has drafted a model resolution that could be considered next year in state capitols from coast to coast. The document, obtained by The Associated Press, urges Congress to deny state prosecutors the enforcement power they seek over the ads— warning that it could discourage investment in new Internet services.

For state lawmakers wary of being characterized as sympathetic to sex offenders, it’s admittedly a political risk.

“Obviously, anything dealing with sexual predators or sex trafficking, we want to put an absolute stop to that,” said North Dakota state Rep. Blair Thoreson,a Republican who leads a multi-state task force opposing the request by state attorneys’ general.

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