December 16, 2019
HOUSTON — Tech has led to a lot of trouble lately: hate speech, financial scams, undermined elections. Yet tech companies have largely avoided legal consequences, thanks to a landmark 1996 law that protects them from lawsuits.
Now that federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has a new threat: Annie McAdams, a personal-injury lawyer in Houston.
Ms. McAdams is waging a legal assault against Facebook and other tech companies, accusing them of facilitating the sex trafficking of minors. In a series of lawsuits in California, Georgia, Missouri and Texas, she is using a novel argument to challenge the 1996 law, and finding some early success. This year, a Texas judge has repeatedly denied Facebook’s motions to dismiss her lawsuits.
Section 230 states that internet companies are not liable for what their users post. Ms. McAdams argues that, in the case of pimps using Facebook and Instagram to lure children into prostitution, separate laws require Facebook to warn users of that risk and do more to prevent it.
“If you sell a lawn mower and the blade flies off and chops someone in the leg, you have the responsibility to fix it and warn people,” she said. “Nowhere else has an industry been afforded this luxury of protection from being held accountable for anything that they’ve caused.”
Ms. McAdams’s lawsuits are part of a broader, yearslong effort to use the courts to upend how the 23-year-old law governs the internet.
While Section 230 is increasingly debated in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, legislation is not expected to significantly weaken the law anytime soon. Instead, lawyers are pushing ahead with federal and state lawsuits to challenge its protection of internet companies. After years of court rulings that strengthened the law, cracks have recently begun to show.
In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that Section 230 didn’t protect a modeling website that two men used to lure women they drugged and sexually assaulted, because the site’s owners knew of the threat and failed to warn the women.
To read the full story by Jack Nicas on The New York Times: Click Here
August 22, 2019
May 1, 2019
The Power of Why?: Addressing the Root Causes of Human Trafficking
by Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, LCWR
There is an old, and perhaps over-used story, about a village on the edge of a river and babies. Perhaps you’ve heard the parable of the “Baby in the River.” It goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a small village on the edge of a river. The people there were good and life was good. One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. She quickly swam out to save the baby. The next day this same villager noticed two babies in the river. She called for help, and both babies were saved. The following day there were four babies and then eight, then more, and more, and on and on it went.
April 29, 2019
The villagers got organized. They set up teams to rescue the babies and were soon working 24-7. Each day the number of babies floating down the river increased. The rescue squads were now saving many children each day. While not all the babies could be saved, the villagers felt they were doing well to save as many as they could. They set up a field hospital to care for the babies and collected diapers and clothing. They recruited foster families to care for the children and arranged for their education.
Indeed, the villagers were quite proud of their efforts. And life in the village went on and the villagers went on rescuing as many babies as they could.
One day, someone raised the question, “Where are all these babies coming from? Let’s send a team upstream to find-out why all of these babies are floating downstream!”
The community elders countered: “And if we go upstream who will manage the rescue operations? We need every concerned person here!”
“But don’t you see,” cried the one lone voice,” if we find out who is throwing them in, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown! By going up-stream we can eliminate the cause of the problem!” “It is too risky,” said the village elders. And so the numbers of babies found floating in the river increased daily. Those saved increased, but those who drown increased even more.
The moral of the story seems pretty obvious: We need to do our part to rescue babies found floating down the river. But we also need to ask why they’re being thrown into the river and what we can do about that!
Those who are committed to ending every form of slavery must also ask “Why?” Why are so many women and girls, and boys and men, still being bought and sold for sex, labor, and organ transplant? Unless and until we tackle the “why” question, we will make only limited progress in preventing human trafficking.
“Prevention” is, and has been, one of the 4 “Ps” in the fundamental international frameworkused by governments and non-governmental organizations to combat contemporary forms of slavery. Historically, prevention efforts focused on public awareness campaigns to educate communities in source and destination countries about human trafficking so that they could identify victims and warn vulnerable populations.
Today, prevention has grown to include other cross-cutting efforts such as: ensuring that labor laws protect all classes of workers; providing robust labor enforcement; addressing vulnerabilities such as birth registrations and identification; constructing labor recruitment programs that protect workers from exploitation; strengthening partnerships between law enforcement, government, and non-governmental organizations; emphasizing effective policy implementation with stronger enforcement, better reporting, and government-endorsed business standards; monitoring product supply chains; and reducing demand for commercial sex.
The expansion of “prevention” strategies is laudable. However, unless we address the underlying socio-economic context that gives rise to human trafficking; until we better understand the changing context of race, gender, politics, labor, and migration in this rapidly globalizing world, we cannot dismantle the cultural superstructure which supports the trafficking of human beings. If we hope to end human trafficking, then we must be willing to examine the power dynamics that allow some to enslave others. If we hope to end exploitation, then we must be willing to disassemble hierarchies of every sort. If we hope to establish justice and equality, then we must continually ask “why?”
[Episcopal News Service] On the morning of April 6, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City became more than a transit hub – it became a site of prayer and activism that connected the Stations of the Cross to the plight of sex trafficking victims.
“The cross is a metaphor for sex trafficking,” said the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation and chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Sex trafficking victims often face continued violence, social stigma and a loss of agency in an unsupportive system.
Dannhauser and a group of some 30 faith-based activists – many of whom wore various hues of purple in support of sex trafficking victims and in recognition of Lent – gathered for a traveling model of the Lenten tradition, which connected the Stations of the Cross to elements of sex trafficking throughout New York City.
Praying the Stations of the Cross during Lent is a centuries-old tradition that focuses Christians on the path of suffering that Jesus followed to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and for many Christians, that story is retold in solemn tones inside the walls of a church or chapel.
Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors followed seven stations, abbreviated from the usual 14, across three of the city’s boroughs. Each stop reflected Jesus’ journey on Good Friday and the burden of commercial sexual exploitation, featuring opening devotion and liturgy from faith leaders, as well as speeches from trafficking survivors. Attendees visited a shelter and service provider for homeless youth, a strip club, an area of the Bronx known for street prostitution, a human trafficking intervention court in Queens, John F. Kennedy International Airport and a hotel in Brooklyn known for commercial sex.
Fittingly, the Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station. Located just blocks from Times Square, the Port Authority is the nation’s largest and busiest bus terminal. It’s open 24 hours a day and, because of its location in a tourist district and its nearly 200,000 daily visitors, the terminal has long been a hot spot for traffickers, pimps and others who scout for vulnerable women to coerce into prostitution.
To read the full story on Episcopal News Service: Click Here
March 7, 2019
Engelbert Humperdinck’s classic 1890s opera “Hansel and Gretel” has been a favorite at Viterbo University, coming to the stage there half a dozen times in the past 25 years. It’s a favorite for good reason, according to Stephanie Harter Campbell, who is directing this weekend’s production.
“It’s a really good choice for our students because it’s accessible and the music is so beautiful and fun,” Harter Campbell said.
“Hansel and Gretel” is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two somewhat strong-headed and rebellious young siblings who wander off into the haunted forest and are lured into the clutches of the Gingerbread Witch by her enticingly edible house.
But Harter Campbell, who directed the La Crosse Community Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia,” wanted to try something different with this staging. As she contemplated setting the opera in the present, she asked herself what form the threat to Hansel and Gretel would take in 2019.
“What does a witch look like in 2019?” Harter Campbell wondered. “Who is eating up children and using them as a commodity?”
To read the full story by Randy Erickson on the La Crosse Tribune: Click Here
June 1, 2018
Join the Movement, Create a Tipping Point to End Human Trafficking
by Sister Linda Haydock, SNJM
On first every Sunday of the month for ten years we Catholic Sisters and our companions stand and pray to end the trafficking of over of over 40 million women, children and men. It’s said that statistics are faces with the tears wiped away. We will stand, advocate and work until the face of human trafficking is revealed as the modern day slavery it is and brought to an end.
Why would people stand in silent vigil every month for ten years? We feel called, compelled and have a conviction that every action we take to witness against the injustice and indignity of human trafficking makes a difference. While we advocate and educate we stand in silent vigil. We hold companies accountable for trafficking in their supply chains, and we vigil. As we form committees and coalitions we vigil. As we accompany and support survivors we vigil.
Rain, shine or snow we stand in the heart of downtown Seattle at Westlake Park. This small urban gathering place for the community is also a hub of human trafficking, law enforcement officers tell us. Throughout the years we have had every encounter imaginable with passersby. Many walk by without even a glance, but many more come to a new awareness of the human trafficking taking place in our midst. From photo journalists to the state attorney general, we enlist them to act end human trafficking as we give public witness. Survivors thank us and students stand with us. Retired sisters unable to stand, join us in their chapels.
Every time I join in community at Westlake Park it is a new opportunity to deepen my commitment to give what I can and to do what must be done for the sake of the whole human community. There are more laws now, more organizations addressing human trafficking, more companies aware and addressing the situation, and much more public consciousness of the need to end the exploitation of human beings. When will we reach the tipping point where survivors outnumber the persons trafficked and slavery is no more? I can’t tell you how many more vigils we will hold or when we will celebrate the end of trafficking, but I can tell you as long as there are Catholic Sisters and human trafficking exists we will stand strong on every corner and commit ourselves to every effort to end human trafficking.
The movement is growing. Fifteen states and three Canadian Provinces hold vigils. What if we doubled the number of vigils this year? If every city in North American joined the sisters for half an hour on the first Sunday of the month it would signal that we are well on our way to that tipping point to end human trafficking.
To Start a Public Vigil
August 3, 2017
- Contact the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Get Signs
- Set a Time and Place
- Show Up
Traffik 2017: A New Art Exhibit about Human Trafficking
Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA
On May 11-12, 2017 Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, WI held its 20th annual conference on Child Maltreatment with support from the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, Coulee Region Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, Family & Children’s Center – Stepping Stones, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, and Viterbo University Art Department. This nationally recognized conference addresses strategies that multidisciplinary teams can use to intervene when child maltreatment is reported, collaborate with community and family to protect children, and ensure justice for child victims of abuse/neglect.
This year the conference devoted a full day to human trafficking. Speakers addressed national and state legislation, human trafficking in a globalized context, assisting victims, and suppression of demand on the part of law enforcement. A special feature of the conference was a nationally juried art exhibit organized and presented by the Viterbo University Art Department, entitled Traffik 2017. The goal was to create a space for artists to express themselves, and for others to dwell among works that have been highly considered, in the context of this issue. The call to artists invited submission of works with an implication for introspection on the theme, the issues that surround it or its effects, and to explore broader interpretations of issues that it raises, such as oppression, illicit economies, invisibility, innocence, social justice and others. (http://www.viterbo.edu/art-department/traffik-2017-call-artists)
Image by Margaret Miller, Viterbo Art Alumni 2014
Viterbo University received some 50 entries from artists all over the United States and one from Austria. Since the call was open to anyone 18 years of age and older, entries represented the full spectrum of working artists, from high school and college students, to university professors, to professional and amateur working artists. The jury selected 28 pieces for the show.
A sampling from the exhibit is shown here with the permission of the artists. Their own words describe their creations.
Barbed Wire with Butterfly #2
By Daniel Stokes
I have chosen to describe the theme by illustrating the contrast embodied by my subject matter, butterflies and barbed wire. The butterfly representing the fragile, the harmless, the beautiful. All those precious things of this world that are vulnerable by their very nature including men, women, and children.
Barbed wire, whose sole purpose for existence is to inflict pain, as a symbol of the methods and attitudes of those who in service of greed would control, imprison, even enslave the weak and innocent through threats of violence, to whom human beings are nothing more than mere property to be bought, sold, and ultimately destroyed.
by Anna Lucille Strunk (Lucy)
The top half of the painting shows Americans going about their everyday lives. The blue background reflects a calm and cool world, where there is nothing to be concerned about. The white figures are the everyday people, going about their lives in the cities and towns. The small size and white color represents how most people don’t think outside of their little worlds, and how they believe everything is right and pure.
The lower portion portrays the suffering of people and children taken by the calamity of human trafficking. The red background represents the burning pain and suffering experienced by these individuals. The hunched, black figures are those who have been taken and sold into slavery. They are a larger size than the white figures above because the problem of human trafficking is larger than we think it is. The bent over posture is for the treacherous work they are put through, and how they are sold to people who make things that we use every day, being put in a position that, in an unfortunate way, supports our country.
The black city and Empire State Building that rests over the bottom half of the painting represent the United States being ignorant or ignoring the issue. Our “perfect” little world has horrible and tragic happenings occurring beneath it.
Acrylic on canvas
In painting Selling, I wanted to capture the commerce of selling oneself to survive, and probably not by choice. The Swedish government has found that much of the vast profit generated by the global prostitution industry goes into the pockets of human traffickers. The Swedish government said, “International trafficking in human beings could not flourish but for the existence of local prostitution markets where men are willing and able to buy and sell women and children for sexual exploitation.”
This image was not submitted to the exhibit, but represents in a survivor’s own efforts how art can be helpful in the struggle toward healing and freedom.
By KN (survivor)
Acrylic mixed with other mediums
Most of the symbolism is in the side where the face is dark or shaded. It represents either the side of us we don’t know or the side we want to be unknown. The side that makes it look as if the wind is blowing to me represents how we are constantly changing. I also think the earthy colors are grounding.
“KN” affirms that art is another way to convey the message from the survivor. Art therapy opens up areas that have been blocked and helps the individual get at the pain from another angle. It functions like a castle with different doors where one can enter the memories and work with them. The doors can be closed again and issues can be put away when the survivor is not working on them. For her, the castle concept is a way to contain the reality so that it cannot have a continuously destructive influence on her life.
Art is frequently used in healing modalities for survivors of human trafficking. It also provides an entry for understanding more clearly the reality of this criminal activity which engulfs our world. Viewers at the Traffik 2017 art exhibit found it profoundly meaningful.
The obvious benefit of the Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare Child Maltreatment Conference was not only the knowledge conveyed in a variety of ways, but the collaboration among social institutions that is essential to making a contribution to ending modern slavery in the 21st century. Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University are sponsored ministries of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse. The author of this article convened and continues to chair the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery.
Traffik 2017 will be on display at the Viterbo University Art Gallery from August 30-September 29, 2017. For more information, Department Chairwoman Sherri Lisota, can be contacted at email@example.com.