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Federal courts cite free speech concerns over sex trafficking laws

Federal judges are taking a hard look at laws meant to stifle human trafficking including child sex trafficking and finding potential violations of the First Amendment.

A federal judge in California granted a preliminary injunction to block Preposition 35 from going into effect. Prop. 35 required alleged human traffickers to list their Internet identifiers and service providers for the police. The court found that the proposition overreached in stifling more speech than necessary in fighting trafficking. Electronic Freedom Foundation, January 11, 2013, by Hanni Fakhoury.

A Tennessee case yielded similar results as a federal judge issued a restraining order for a child sex trafficking law that may violate free speech rights. The law made it a felony to sell an ad that appears to offer sex with a minor even if the ad is never published or does not involve a minor. The judge found the law should be more narrow, writing,  “The Constitution tells us that – when freedom of speech hangs in the balance – the state may not use a butcher knife on a problem that requires a scalpel to fix.”  Courthouse News Service, January 15, 2013, by Lorraine Bailey. -db

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